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Respirator Selection and Use

The use of NIOSH-approved respirators is strictly regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134.  Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) has developed a Respiratory Protection Program to comply with OSHA’s regulation and, accordingly, the use of a respirator by faculty, staff, students and visitors at Columbia is permitted only following a formal consultation and work practice/exposure assessment by EH&S.  The assessment will determine the potential for exposure to hazardous substances and whether or not a respirator is required.  If a respirator is required, users will be enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program.  Enrollment, as required by OSHA and Columbia University policy, involves an annual medical evaluation, clearance by a healthcare provider, a respirator fit-test, and selection, use and maintenance training by EH&S.

There are very few activities performed at Columbia where respirator use is necessary.  Whenever a respirator is necessary, it is essential that EH&S lead the process for selecting the proper respirator for the user since not all respirators will protect against all potential hazards.  As such, the purchase of any NIOSH-approved respirator, including N-95 respirators, must only occur after an exposure assessment is performed and EH&S advises on the most appropriate respirator for the specific work activity.  If individuals in your department have respirators and have not received an exposure assessment by EH&S, please contact immediately to arrange for an assessment.

When it is determined by EH&S that a NIOSH-approved respirator is not required, but an individual prefers to wear a “mask” for nuisance-level dusts or particulates, a “dust mask” or surgical-style mask may be a suitable option.  These masks are not considered NIOSH-approved respirators, but may be suitable for nuisance-level dust or particulates, and thus can be purchased and worn without EH&S approval or enrollment in Columbia’s Respiratory Protection Program.  Several options for “dust masks” and surgical-style masks can be found below.  Additionally, if an individual chooses to voluntarily wear a NIOSH-approved respirator, whether their own or one issued by Columbia University, and it is determined by EH&S not to be required based on an exposure assessment, EH&S must be consulted before use to ensure Columbia University meets its OSHA obligations in conveying specific information to the user regarding selection, use and maintenance of a voluntary use respirator.

Dust Mask and Surgical-Style Mask Options
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eSafety Supplies, Inc.

Safety Basics and Supply Inc.