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Respiratory Protection Program

Learn about the UC San Diego respiratory protection program and how to get a respirator.

Respirators are personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to filter out airborne hazards. There are many types of respirators that have different capabilities and varying levels of protection. It is important to properly select the appropriate respirator for the task and to understand the use and limitations of that respirator. Respirators, along with other PPE, should only be considered as a last resort as they have limitations and do not eliminate the hazardous condition.

Type of respirators

There are some situations where engineering controls and other work practices are not feasible or adequate enough to reduce exposures to safe limits and respiratory protection is required. When used properly, respirators are effective in reducing exposures to airborne contaminants.

Employees who will use a respirator for work must follow the policies outlined in the campus Respiratory Protection Program (RPP). All respirator use on campus must be reviewed and approved prior to beginning work which necessitates its use. Environment, Health, and Safety (EH&S) manages the campus RPP in accordance with Title 8, California Code of Regulations (CCR), Section 5144.

Mandatory Respirator Use Requirements

Respirators are required when work exposures to airborne contaminants reach a hazardous level and/or in oxygen-deficient environments where effective engineering controls are not feasible. Respirators may also be required if you have been told by COEM (Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine) that you must use one to perform your work.

Employees who are required to wear a respirator as PPE must be enrolled in the campus RPP and be certified to use a respirator. Certification requirements must be fulfilled at least annually and include:

  • Medical Surveillance to ensure the employee is physically fit to wear the respirator
  • Respirator Fit Testing to ensure proper fit of a particular size and model respirator
  • Training on the use and limitations

The RPP coordinator contacts the employee and supervisor prior to the recertification due date.

Voluntary Respirator Use Requirements

Sometimes, respirator use can be encouraged to reduce exposure or increase comfort even when exposures do not reach a hazardous level. This is considered voluntary use of a respirator and means that respirators may be used to perform work but it is not required. Voluntary use of respirators on campus still requires review and approval prior to use.

For more information on voluntary use of respirators see Voluntary Use of N95-Respirators.

Supervisor Responsibilities

Supervisors and Principal Investigators (PIs) are responsible for understanding and implementing campus policies and procedures. These procedures include:

  • Performing job hazard assessments to identify hazards that may necessitate the use of respirators
  • Identifying employees who perform this job function and initiating enrollment into the campus RPP by following instructions on How to Get a Respirator
  • Providing employees with appropriate respiratory supplies prescribed by the campus RPP coordinator
  • Enforcing proper use of respirators at the worksite and ensuring employee completes annual certification requirements

Respiratory Protection Program Coordinator

The campus RPP coordinator is responsible for implementing program requirements to ensure compliance in accordance with state and federal guidelines. These guidelines include:

  • Managing campus respiratory protection program to ensure regulatory compliance of mandatory and voluntary use of respirators on campus
  • Assisting departments to identify hazards that may necessitate the use of respirators
  • Performing respirator hazard evaluations to determine appropriate respirator type, cartridges, and other supplies
  • Certifying employees enrolled in the campus RPP by facilitating annual requirements which include: medical surveillance, respirator fit testing, and training
  • Contacting and scheduling employees when annual recertification is due
  • Maintaining employee certification records

Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM)

Respirators are generally safe to use but some types may not be appropriate for individuals who have certain medical conditions. COEM is responsible for:

  • Ensuring employees are medically cleared to wear the assigned type of respirator by reviewing medical surveillance questionnaires
  • Prescribing work restrictions based upon evaluation.

Should you have questions or concerns regarding your ability to safely wear a respirator, you may speak to and consult with a health practitioner by contacting or (858) 534–8225.

Regulations and policies

Questions? Contact EH&S Occupational Health & Hygiene Services at

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