Respiratory Protection

Did you know...

a sneeze can travel at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour expelling air, mucus, and bacteria from the body.

Respirators are worn to protect the user from airborne hazards such as particulates (dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, smoke, sprays) and gases/vapors, when other engineering controls, such as a chemical fume hood, are not available or adequate. The use of respirators is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) through the Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) and the UVM Respiratory Protection Program.

Everyone who wears a respirator at UVM, including N95s or P100 disposable respirators, must be enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program. This  program is managed by UVM Occupational Health Program staff.

The Respiratory Protection Program is multi-step process designed to comply with the OSHA Standard. Please Do NOT wear a respirator at work unless you have completed all of the required steps of the Program.

If you have any questions about the Respiratory Protection Program please email


1. Submit a Respirator Request

Go to the UVM Occupational Health portal and submit a respirator request under the Employees and Students section. Risk Management & Safety staff will then contact you to set up a time to conduct a Hazard Assessment of your work. The Hazard Assessment determines if you need to wear a respirator at all. and will include looking at engineering and administrative controls that can be used in the area to eliminate the need for a respirator.

If it is determined that a respirator is needed to conduct your work safely, the type of respirator will be determined at the assessment. Sampling may also be needed to make a proper determination.

2. Obtain Medical Clearance

If the results of the Hazard Assessment indicate that you are required to wear a respirator, the next step is to obtain medical clearance. You will receive an email directing you to complete an online OSHA medical questionaire. Once you submit the questionaire, UVM's occupational health care provider will review it and determine if you are medically cleared to wear a respirator.  UVM's Occupational Health Program staff will contact you by email with the medical evaluation results. Medical clearance must be done every 3 years.

3. Get a Fit Test
Once you have obtained medical clearance, you must be fit tested to ensure the proper fit and size of your respirator. Occupational Health Program staff will contact you to schedule your fit test after you have been medically clearned. Fit tests must be done annually. Additional fit tests should be scheduled during the year if you have had significant visible changes to your facial structure that could impact fit (dental surgery, significant weight loss/gain) or you are unable to get a good seal during a user seal check.

A fit test can take approximately 30 minutes. If for some reason you cannot keep your scheduled fit test appointment time, contact in advance.  A technician is scheduled to conduct your fit test - please be respectful of their time.

During the fit test, you will be shown the following:

    How to put on your respirator corectly,
    How to achieve a comfortable fit, and
    How to conduct a user seal check.

How To Prepare For Your Fit Test:

    Bring your personal respirator (if applicable). Sample respirators are available for those who do not yet have one.
    Bring proof of your medical clearance.
    Come to the appointment clean-shaven – with no facial hair.  If this is not possible, contact
    Avoid wearing excessive makeup.
    If you are a smoker, please refrain from smoking at least 1 hour before your fit test.

4. Complete Respirator Training

Online or in-person training is required before you can wear your respirator.  You will be trained on the use, care, and maintenance for the type of respirator you have been assigned.  Training must be completed every year.

5. Stay Up To Date On Program Requirements

The Medical Evaluation Questionnaire must be submitted every three years.  Certain employees may require more frequent medical evaluations, such as employees in the Asbestos Management Program, the Lead/Lead Based Paint Program, or employees who are covered by the OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard.  Fit testing and training are annual requirements and must be completed every year.  These program elements are required for all respirator users at UVM - except for personnel who have been approved for voluntary use of disposable N95 respirators under OSHA's voluntary use program.

The Respirator Program Coordinator keeps copies of the medical clearance status, fit test results, and training records.  For laboratory use of respirators, such records will be maintained in the Lab Safety Notebook. The employee record is available to the respective employee, the immediate Supervisor and any individual who has received approval from RM&S.


The UVM Respiratory Protection Program is intended to protect employees against recognized health hazards.  However, an employee may be irritated by the presence of non-hazardous air contaminants, such as dust, pollen or dander.  In this case, the University will permit an employee to wear a disposable N95 respirator for comfort reasons and will consider this Voluntary Use under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134(c)(2).

Before an employee is able to wear a disposable N95 respirator on a voluntary basis, RM&S staff first must perform a hazard assessment to determine if voluntary use is appropriate.

To begin this process, go to the Occupational Health Portal and submit your respirator use request.

Once an employee is approved for voluntary respirator use, the employee must:

    Complete the online “Voluntary Disposable Respirator Use” training, which includes OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 Appendix D and;
    Report any changes, questions or concerns in your work environment that may affect respirator use to your supervisor.

Voluntary use of disposable N95 respirators does not require medical clearance, fit testing, or annual training.