Respiratory Safety

Respirators should be used for protection against airborne contaminants.

When do I need a respirator?

Only use a respirator for protection against airborne contaminant it there are no other hazard control methods available. Respirators should never be the primary choice for hazard control.

Individuals can be exposed to an array of airborne hazards in their workplace that can lead to occupational respiratory diseases. Examples of airborne hazards can be found below:

Airborne Hazard Hazard Source
Dusts & Fibres Sanding, crushing, grinding, crushing, cutting, drilling solid materials
Mists Shaking, spraying, stirring, mixing liquids
Smoke Fires
Fumes Welding, soldering, brazing, smelting metals or plastics
Biological Exposure to bacteria, viruses, fungi, plant & animal materials (e.g. animal dander*)
Gases Workplace/industrial processes and by-products from processes
Vapors Paint thinners, acetone, turpentine, etc.

* Lab Animal Allergens: Exposure Control Plan

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What are the types of respirators available?

There are many types of respirators and it is important to choose the right type of respirator for the type of hazards in the workplace. View the types of respirators available (pdf) for additional information.

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How should I care, maintain and store my respirator?

Respirators must be protected from damage, dust, extreme temperatures, moisture, chemicals etc. Furthermore, respirators should be inspected prior to use and the following should be checked:

Piece What to Check
Respirator Head Straps No breaks or tears
Good strap elasticity
No straps with knots
Respirator Face Piece Rubber or silicone is flexible
No dirt, cracks, holes, tears, etc.
Respirator Inhalation/Exhalation Valves No missing valves
No dirt, cracks, holes, tears, etc.
Valves are flat and flexible
Filters/Cartridges No cracks, holes, dents, etc.
Not coated with contaminants
Proper filter/cartridge is chosen for the hazard present

The following directions should be followed to clean and sanitize respirators after use:

  • clean in warm water
  • use a mild detergent
  • wash with a soft sponge or brush not wire
  • rinse with running water
  • sanitize
  • rinse again
  • dry on a rack or clean surface
  • use and maintain respirators according to manufacturers’ recommendations

Respirators should be stored in a clean bag away from sunlight, dust, heat, moisture, and chemicals when not in use to prevent them from becoming distorted or damaged.

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What are fit tests and how do I register for one?

Respirator fit testing ensures the respirator is a good fit for your facial structure. Respirator fit is affected by scarring, dental work, surgery, weight loss, facial hair. The respirator fit testing session will also ensure individuals are competent at putting on their respirator.

Respirator fit testing is required prior to the first use of your respirator and annually thereafter, as required by WorkSafeBC regulations.

Safety & Risk Services performs respirator fit testing. If there is an occupational requirement to wear a respirator for your work/job tasks, go to UBC Workplace Learning (WPL) to book a test.

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Can I use a respirator if I have a respiratory condition?

Respirators may make it harder to breathe and can cause physiological health effects such as heat stress, dehydration etc. This is especially of importance for individuals diagnosed with respiratory conditions (e.g. asthma or lung disease).  If you have any relevant health concerns, a visit to UBC Occupational and Preventative Health or your own physician is required to obtain medical clearance to wear a respirator. Safety & Risk Services must receive medical clearance before administering a fit test.

Relevant resources

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