Wayne State University

Respiratory Protection - Procedures for Proper Use

User seal check procedures

Once the respirator has been properly selected and fitted, its protection efficiency must be maintained by proper use in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.134(g).  The following checklist is used to ensure that proper use procedures include coverage of OSHA requirements:

Facepiece seal protection

  • Do not permit respirators with tight-fitting facepieces to be worn by employees who have:
  1. Facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with valve function; or
  2. Any condition that interferes with the face-to-facepiece seal or valve function.
  • If an employee wears corrective glasses or goggles or other personal protective equipment, ensure that such equipment is worn in a manner that does not interfere with the seal of the facepiece to the face of the user.
  • For all tight-fitting respirators, ensure that employees perform a user seal check each time they put on the respirator using the procedures in 29 CFR 1910.134 Appendix B-1 User Seal Check Procedures or procedures recommended by the respirator manufacturer that you can demonstrate are as effective as those in Appendix B-1.

(Appendix B-1, OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard § 29 CFR 1910.134 - mandatory)

The individual who uses a tight-fitting respirator is to perform a user seal check to ensure that an adequate seal is achieved each time the respirator is put on. Either the positive and negative pressure checks listed in this appendix, or the respirator manufacturer’s recommended user seal check method shall be used. User seal checks are not substitutes for qualitative or quantitative fit tests.

I. Facepiece positive and/or negative pressure checks

  1. Positive pressure check: Close off the exhalation valve and exhale gently into the facepiece. The face fit is considered satisfactory if a slight positive pressure can be built up inside the facepiece without any evidence of outward leakage of air at the seal. For most respirators this method of leak testing requires the wearer to first remove the exhalation valve cover before closing off the exhalation valve and then carefully replacing it after the test.
  2. Negative pressure check: Close off the inlet opening of the canister or cartridge(s) by covering with the palm of the hand(s) or by replacing the filter seal(s), inhale gently so that the facepiece collapses slightly, and hold the breath for ten seconds. The design of the inlet opening of some cartridges cannot be effectively covered with the palm of the hand. The test can be performed by covering the inlet opening of the cartridge with a thin latex or nitrile glove. If the facepiece remains in its slightly collapsed condition and no inward leakage of air is detected, the tightness of the respirator is considered satisfactory.

II. Manufacturer’s recommended user seal check procedures

The respirator manufacturer’s recommended procedures for performing a user seal check may be used instead of the positive and/or negative pressure check procedures provided that the employer demonstrates that the manufacturer’s procedures are equally effective.

Continuing respirator effectiveness

Appropriate surveillance must be maintained of work area conditions and degree of employee exposure or stress. When there is a change in work area conditions or degree of employee exposure or stress that may affect respirator effectiveness, reevaluate the continued effectiveness of the respirator.

Ensure that employees leave the respirator use area:

  1. To wash their faces and respirator facepieces as necessary to prevent eye or skin irritation associated with respirator use; or
  2. If they detect vapor or gas breakthrough, changes in breathing resistance, or leakage of the facepiece; or
  3. To replace the respirator or the filter, cartridge, or canister elements.

If the employee detects vapor or gas breakthrough, changes in breathing resistance, or leakage of the facepiece, replace or repair the respirator before allowing the employee to return to the work area.

Maintenance, cleaning, and storage

In order to ensure continuing protection from respiratory protective devices, it is necessary to establish and implement proper maintenance and care procedures and schedules. Proper maintenance and care of respirators is essential to maintain respirators in optimal working condition. 

Cleaning & disinfecting

Respirators must be kept clean, sanitary, and in good working order. Respirators can be cleaned and disinfected at the intervals below using the procedures as indicated in Appendix B-2 to § 1910.134: Respirator Cleaning Procedures (Mandatory). Respirators will be cleaned and disinfected as often as needed to meet these specifications:

Respirator type

Cleaned and disinfected at the following intervals

Issued for the exclusive use of an employee

As often as necessary to be maintained in a sanitary condition

Issued to more than one employee

Before being worn by different individuals

Maintained for emergency use

After each use

Used in fit testing and training

After each use


Storage of respirators must be done properly to ensure that the equipment is protected and not subject to environmental conditions that may cause deterioration.

We ensure that respirators are stored to protect them from damage, contamination, dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals, and they are packed or stored in a protective storage bag to prevent deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve. In addition, emergency respirators are kept accessible to the work area; stored in compartments that are clearly marked as containing emergency respirators; and stored in accordance with any applicable manufacturer instructions.


In order to assure the continued reliability of respirator equipment, it must be inspected on a regular basis. The frequency of inspection is related to the frequency of use. Here are our frequencies for inspection:

Respirator type

Inspected at the following frequencies

All types used in routine situations

Before each use and during cleaning

Maintained for use in emergency situations

At least monthly and in accordance with the manufacturers recommendations, and checked for proper function before use

Any one of our respirator inspections includes a check:

  • For respirator function, tightness of connections, and the condition of the various parts including, but not limited to, the facepiece, head straps, valves, connecting tube, and cartridges, canisters or filters; and
  • Of elastomeric parts for pliability and signs of deterioration.
  • For self-contained breathing apparatus, in addition to the above, monthly, we maintain air and oxygen cylinders in a fully charged state and recharge when the pressure falls to 90% of the manufacturer's recommended pressure level and determine that the regulator and warning devices function properly.

Also for respirators maintained for emergency use, we certify the respirator by documenting the date the inspection was performed, the name (or signature) of the person who made the inspection, the findings, required remedial action, and a serial number or other means of identifying the inspected respirator. This information shall be maintained until replaced following a subsequent certification.


Respirators that fail an inspection or are otherwise found to be defective are removed from service, and are discarded or repaired or adjusted in accordance with the following procedures:

  • Repairs or adjustments to respirators are to be made only by persons appropriately trained to perform such operations and only with the respirator manufacturer's NIOSH-approved parts designed for the respirator;
  • Repairs must be made according to the manufacturer's recommendations and specifications for the type and extent of repairs to be performed; and
  • Reducing and admission valves, regulators, and alarms must be adjusted or repaired only by the manufacturer or a technician trained by the manufacturer.

Respirators that fail an inspection or are otherwise not fit for use and cannot be repaired must be discarded.