Respirators can be an effective tool in protecting employees from exposure to airborne physical, biological, or chemical agents, but should only be used when other controls are infeasible. Administrative or engineering controls, such as substituting work materials with a less toxic option or installing local exhaust ventilation systems should be considered before assigning respiratory protection. If other methods/controls cannot be implemented, then respiratory protection may be warranted.
If you are uncertain whether a respirator is required, contact the NAU Industrial Hygienist to request a workplace assessment. If the need for a respirator is identified, employees must complete the following process with their supervisor PRIOR to respirator use to ensure compliance with OSHA protocol and the components of the NAU Respiratory Protection Program:
- Print the Respiratory Protection Processing Form and complete Part 1 of that form.
- Ask your Supervisor to complete Part 2 of the form, which will specify the respiratory hazard, estimated concentration, work environment, and specific type of respirator proposed to be worn during your work activities.
- Print and complete the appropriate section(s) of the Medical Evaluation Questionnaire form and the Respiratory Protection Processing Form, and drop off at Campus Health Services (Building 25) or send via interoffice mail (sealed envelope) – Attn: Medical Director. If a medical evaluation is needed, a CHS provider will contact you to schedule an appointment.
- Contact EH&S for respirator fit testing and training.
- Have your Supervisor complete Part 4 of the Processing form.
Voluntary Use of N95 Respirators
N95 respirators and surgical masks are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from particles or from liquid contaminating the face. They offer a greater degree of filtration efficiency from exposure and can be used on a voluntary basis if desired.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also regulates N95 respirators. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates entities for compliance with worker safety rules and OSHA standards, including, for example, the proper use of respirators in different work environments.
It is important to recognize that the optimal way to prevent transmission of microorganisms, such as viruses, is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls, not just PPE alone.
To comply with NAU and State OSHA requirements involving the voluntary use of N95s and other forms of respiratory protection, please review the “Voluntary Use” section in NAU’s Respiratory Protection Program.