Wearer (Z88.2 section 4.4) It is critical that wearers use the approved respirator according to the training and instructions provided (section 4.4.1). The following practices are essential for wearers to ensure their own protection:
  • Guard against respirator damage (section 4.4.2). A properly trained individual is responsible for respirator maintenance (section 4.5.7). This individual may or may not be the wearer. However, the wearer is responsible for inspecting and ensuring the proper working condition of the respirator prior to its use.
  • Leave the contaminated area, according to established procedures, if the respirator is suspected of not performing properly or if the end-of-service period is reached. Report the situation immediately according to the SOP (section 4.4.3).
  • Report any medical or physical condition impairing the wearer’s ability to properly wear the respirator (section 4.4.4).
  • Report to the respirator program administrator any concerns of wearer acceptability (section 9.4.2).
  • Perform a wearer seal check each time the wearer dons a tight-fitting respirator (section 4.4.5). This is an opportunity to inspect the respirator components to ensure they are not damaged, are correctly assembled, and are functioning properly (sections 4.5.7, 11.2.1).
Wearers should be aware that not wearing a respirator when one is needed for even short periods of time substantially reduces their protection from the contaminant exposure (annex A.7). Industrial Hygienist (Z88.2 section 7) Typically, an employer will have qualified occupational safety and health professionals (safety specialists or industrial hygienists) perform the hazard assessment and determine appropriate administrative and engineering controls, and respiratory protection requirements. The hazard assessment includes:
  • Identifying inhalation contaminants, including their physical state and chemical properties; estimating workplace concentrations and evaluating concentrations to occupational exposure limits and IDLH (immediately dangerous to life or health) limits; evaluating possible reduced oxygen atmospheres; and evaluating contaminant absorption through the eyes and skin (sections 7.1–7.1.1.7).
  • Determining whether other hazards are present and the nature of those hazards (sections 7.1.1.8–7.1.1.8.2).
  • Determining the proper approved respirator selection based on the hazard assessment, wearer’s activity, duration of respirator use, and respirator limitations (section 7.2).
Respirator Program Administrator (Z88.2 section 5) The standard calls for a single qualified person, known to all respirator wearers, with direct communications to the site manager to be assigned the authority and responsibility for administering the respirator program (sections 4.5.1, 5.1, and 5.2). The program administrator, who should be identified in the SOPs (section 4.5.1), has the following duties (section 5.3.1):
  • Prior to respirator selection and use, ensure that workplace hazard assessment of airborne contaminants, including oxygen deficiency, is completed.
  • Ensure that medical evaluations, training, and fit-testing are performed.
  • Select the appropriate approved respirator.
  • Document and maintain records to allow an evaluation of the program.
  • Evaluate the program and make revisions as necessary.
  • Perform ongoing surveillance, conduct an annual program audit, and update documentation including SOPs to reflect revisions to the program (section 5.3.2).
A third-party entity may serve as the program administrator provided the third party is qualified and can effectively perform these requirements (section 5.1). In addition, to aid objectivity, the program should be audited by a knowledgeable person not directly associated with it. The frequency of this independent audit should be based on the size and complexity of the program (section 5.3.2). Z88.2 provides an audit checklist (section 5.3.2). Physician or Other Licensed Healthcare Professional (Z88.2 section 4.5.3) The PLHCP determines if the wearer has any medical conditions that would preclude the use of a respirator, any limitations on use, or other restrictions unique to each wearer (section 4.5.3). Other duties for the PLHCP include determining the frequency of medical evaluation and maintaining medical records.

The respirator program administrator coordinates with the PLHCP for medical surveillance, which may include periodic bio-monitoring (section 5.3.3); keeps a record of respirator wearers who are medically qualified; and provides the following information so that the PLHCP can conduct a proper examination:
  • type and weight of respirator
  • duration and frequency of respirator use, typical work activities, and environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity extremes
  • hazards for which the respirator will be worn, including reduced oxygen
  • additional personal protective equipment required to be worn
Additional details of medical evaluations carried out by the PLHCP are contained in ANSI/AIHA Z88.6-2006. Trainers (Z88.2 section 8) Individuals who deliver respirator training are essential and must be qualified and knowledgeable in the services provided. Some areas where trainers may be required include the selection, use, and maintenance of specific brands and models of respirators; fit-testing; proper ingress and egress while wearing respirators; use of emergency escape respirators and procedures; understanding and recognition of hazards; and reporting respirator malfunctions. The standard calls for employees to receive respirator training initially and every 12 months thereafter. Careful consideration and due diligence must be given to ensure the trainers are properly qualified to provide these vital services.

Respirator Issuers (Z88.2 section 8.2.2) Personnel issuing respirators need to be trained to ensure that respirators are in approved configurations and that correct respirators are issued for each application according to the written SOPs. Respirator Fit-Test Operator (Z88.2 section 9) Z88.2 references ANSI Z88.10-2010 for guidance on how to conduct fit-testing of tight-fitting respirators and calls for fit-test operators to be trained and evaluated according to Z88.10 section 5 and Annex A1. In addition, Z88.10 section 6 includes important considerations for performing respirator fit-testing protocols. EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIPS Effective respiratory protection is achieved only when employers and employees fulfill their legislative or regulatory responsibilities. All partners of a respiratory protection team must perform as defined in the respirator program. ANSI/ASSE Z88.2 provides standards of practice for key partners whose roles, authorities, and responsibilities must be understood and properly followed to ensure that respirator wearers obtain the protection that can be afforded by wearing an approved respirator. Respiratory protection is achieved through effective partnerships within the framework of supporting legislation, regulation, and American national consensus respirator standards.

RICHARD W. METZLER, MSIE, a consultant based in Houston, Pa., is chair of the ANSI/ASSE Z88.2 subcommittee. He can be reached at rwmetzler@comcast.net. JAMES S. JOHNSON, PhD, CIH, QEP, is a consultant with JSJ and Associates in Pleasanton, Calif., and chair of the ANSI/ASSE Z88 committee. He can be reached at jsjsrj@comcast.net. DAVID L. SPELCE, MS, CIH (1997–2015), served as the U.S. Navy’s respirator expert from 1987 to 2015 and was the Navy’s official liaison to the ANSI Respirator Committee and the ANSI respirator subcommittees. He can be reached at spelce@cox.net. TIMOTHY R. REHAK, PE, is a general engineer with the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) and a member of the ANSI/ASSE Z88.2 subcommittee. He can be reached at ter1@cdc.gov.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Mention of any product name does not imply endorsement by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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Table 1. Respirator Program: Key Roles and Responsibilities
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Unlike everyday safety devices such as seat belts, the proper use of respirators is not a matter of a simple click made by a single individual. Achieving effective protection through the use of respirators requires complex activities to be performed by multiple people. Employers must ensure that these activities are performed by knowledgeable partners, including wearers.

In the United States, respiratory protection is broadly supported by coordination among governmental organizations, professional associations, researchers, industrial hygienists, manufacturers, and others. These groups develop knowledge, technologies, products, regulations, standards, and best practice guidance to aide employers in providing effective respiratory protection for workers. Ultimately, employers apply the work of these partners by establishing and maintaining effective respirator programs.
An early U.S. standard, Z2.1-1959, provided important information about respiratory hazards, approved respirators, and considerations for proper selection, use, and care. Z2.1 also covered head and eye protection. In 1969, ANSI published the American National Standard Z88.2, Practices for Respiratory Protection, which revised the portion of Z2.1 that discussed respiratory protection. Z88.2 has been updated three times, most recently on March 4, 2015. This article describes the key partners and their roles and responsibilities, which must be coordinated to obtain a respirator program that conforms to ANSI/ASSE Z88.2.
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To aid objectivity, the respiratory protection program should be audited by a knowledgeable person not directly associated with it.
Effective Partnerships Bolster Respiratory Protection
RESPIRATOR PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS Table 1 is a quick reference guide to the requirements in the Z88.2 standard. The table identifies the essential partners, their responsibilities, and the associated Z88.2 sections.
The following discussion summarizes the essential roles and duties to ensure an effective respirator program. The key roles include employer, respirator wearer, industrial hygienist, respirator program administrator, physician or other licensed healthcare professional (PLHCP), respirator trainer, respirator issuer, and fit-test operator. A properly qualified partner may perform more than one key role. Respirator Program SOPs (Z88.2 section 6) For nearly half a century, a major requirement in each version of Z88.2 has been establishing written standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs are sets of step-by-step directions written in such detail that the described operation can be performed repeatedly with a consistent, desirable end result. An SOP must be written to establish coordination between the respirator program administrator and individuals responsible for implementing the key roles for each of the respirator program elements.
SOPs must not just reiterate requirements that are written in respirator standards. They need to state actual details, including who will perform the operations; where, how, and how frequently each task is performed; and the qualifications and training required for key partners. Written SOPs are required to ensure that elements of a respirator program, such as medical evaluation, training, and fit-testing, are performed correctly every time. All respirator program operations are important and must be accurately performed every time. Employer (Z88.2 section 4.3) U.S. laws and regulations place the obligation for worker protection squarely on the employer and employees. Employers have the responsibility to ensure that key partners identified in the written respirator program work together to protect employees against workplace inhalation hazards. Regulations and national consensus standards define an employer’s roles, the minimum requirements for respirator approval, and practices for respirator selection, use, and maintenance. A NIOSH-approved respirator is safe for its intended use, and—when applied in an effective respirator program—ensures proper respiratory protection.
Employers must implement permissible practices to minimize workplace exposures to oxygen-deficient or contaminated air through effective control measures such as ventilation, enclosure, containment, or substitution of less toxic materials (Z88.2 section 4.2). When control measures are not feasible, the standard calls for approved respirators to be used according to applicable regulations (section 4.3.1). Z88.2 supports these regulations by defining specific employer practices to ensure the design and implementation of an effective respirator program (section 4). The following are essential employer practices:
  • Establish, maintain, and evaluate a respirator program (sections 4.3.2, 4.5).
  • Develop written SOPs for implementing each element of the respirator program (sections 4.5.2, 6).
  • Maintain a records retention program that is current with regulatory requirements and company policies (sections 3.67, 13).
  • Select approved respirators according to the specific workplace airborne hazards and the wearer’s unique factors (section 4.3.1).
  • Select respirators with end-of-service-life indicators or implement change schedules for respirators with filters, canisters, or cartridges (section 4.3.5, annex A.1).
  • Train the wearer in the proper and effective use of the respirator (section 4.3.6, 8).
  • For all tight-fitting respirators, ensure wearers are fit-tested annually (section 9) and perform seal checks with each donning (sections 4.3.7, 4.4, 10).
  • Allow wearers to leave the hazardous atmosphere for any respirator-related cause (section 4.3.3).
  • Investigate respirator malfunctions, take corrective measures, and report suspected defects to manufacturers and approval authority (section 4.3.4).
In addition, the employer must ensure that all partners in its respirator program properly carry out their responsibilities.

BY RICHARD W. METZLER, DAVID SPELCE, JAMES S. JOHNSON, AND TIMOTHY R. REHAK
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Photos (left to right): Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus testing at NIOSH, photo courtesy of NIOSH/NPPTL.; filtering facepiece respirator testing at NIOSH, photo courtesy of NIOSH/NPPTL.; worker being interviewed by respirator program administrator, photo courtesy of Mine Safety Appliances Co.; wearer training with Mine Rescue Breathing Apparatus, photo courtesy of Biomarine Inc.
RESOURCES American National Standard Practices for Respiratory Protection, ANSI/ASSE Z88.2-2015). American National Standard Respirator Use: Physical Qualifications for Personnel, ANSI/AIHA Z88.6-2006. American National Standard Respirator Fit: Testing Methods, ANSI/AIHA Z88.10– 2010.
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