OSHA Respirator Fit

October 16, 2019

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers must provide workers with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job. Workers who are at risk for exposure to airborne contaminants should therefore have properly-fitting facepiece respirators to protect them from hazardous dusts in the workplace such as:




  • Asbestos
  • Chemicals
  • Metallic dust
  • Mold
  • Pesticides
  • Silica
  • Wood dust

Respirator Fit Testing Protocols

Respirators should fit securely and comfortably on users’ faces. To comply with this requirement, employers must test workers’ ability to:

  • Breathe normally
  • Breathe deeply
  • Turn head side to side
  • Move head up and down
  • Talk loud enough to be heard by test conductor
  • Grimace
  • Bend over

OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard contains both qualitative and quantitative fit testing protocols to determine whether respirators fit properly. Currently, there are four quantitative protocols, namely:

  • Generated aerosol
  • Ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter (CNC)
  • Controlled negative pressure (CNP)
  • Controlled negative pressure REDON

OSHA Approves Additional Fit Testing Protocols

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to help protect workers from airborne contaminants. The rule lists two additional quantitative fit testing protocols that employers may follow to ensure that workers’ respirators fit properly. The rule applies to employers in the general industry, shipyard employment, and construction industry.

In 2006, Training Services International (TSI) proposed that two additional quantitative fit testing methods be incorporated into the standard. The protocols, abbreviated versions of the current ambient aerosol CNC protocol, were meant to serve as alternatives to the four existing fit testing methods. After withdrawing the rule due to insufficient accuracy and reliability, OSHA invited TSI to resubmit the protocols once modified.

OSHA has now approved the resubmitted protocols, each of which have fewer test exercises, shorter exercise durations, and more streamlined sampling sequences than the original OSHA-approved ambient aerosol CNC protocol.

Airborne Contaminants in the Workplace

OSHA, along with other organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), works to educate and train people on the mitigation of airborne contaminants and to motivate employers and employees to collaborate on how to prevent and control dust in the workplace. According to OSHA, a respirator that fails the fit test must be replaced with one that fits properly. Employers must therefore give workers a reasonable selection of respirators to choose from and replace those that no longer fit them properly.

Workers’ Compensation for Respiratory Illnesses

Under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, employers must provide workers with workplaces that are free from known hazards that are likely to cause serious harm. Employers must also comply with the fit testing and recordkeeping requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard. Workers who develop a work-related respiratory illness may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act and should contact a local attorney to discuss their legal options.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Obtain Benefits for Respiratory Illnesses

If you were diagnosed with a work-related respiratory illness, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Our experienced attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve and ensure that your rights are protected. We proudly represent all types of workers throughout Pennsylvania from our offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading. For a free consultation, please contact us online or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.

We proudly represent injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum LynneDarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssingtonFolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztownLansdowneMediaMerion StationMortonNarberthNorristownNorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect ParkQuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper DarbyWest Chester, and Wynnewood.