Respiratory Protection Program

Respirator Safety Training

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: July 31st, 2012
Topics: Airborne Contaminants | PPE |

Respirator Training ChecklistRespirator Training Requirements

The OSHA Respiratory Protection standard (Sec. 1910.134(k)) requires you to provide effective and comprehensive safety training and information to workers required to use a respirator. Here’s an overview of the training requirements and how to comply with them.


Respirator training required by OSHA needs to ensure workers have an understanding of the respiratory hazards to which they’re potentially exposed during routine and emergency situations, and the proper use of respirators. The Standard doesn’t dictate a specific training program; it simply lists the things that each trainee must learn. More precisely, after training, trainees must be able to demonstrate knowledge of 9 things:

1. Why Respirator Is Necessary & How Bad Fit, Use or Maintenance Hurts Effectiveness

Training must cover the identification of hazards, extent of the worker’s exposure to those hazards and the potential health effects of exposure. According to OSHA guidelines, respirator training can overlap with Hazcom training. In other words, the chemical safety training required by Hazcom satisfies training on hazardous chemicals required for respirator usage under the Standard.

2. Respirator’s Limitations & Capabilities

Training must explain how the respirator the worker is going to use works, including the method it uses to provide protection, e.g., by filtering the air, absorbing the gas or vapor or supplying a clean source of breathing air. Limitations include what the equipment can’t be used for, e.g., that an air-purifying respirator can’t be used in an IDLH atmosphere and the reasons why.

3. The Risk of Malfunctions & Emergency

Training must also explain the risk of malfunction, the kinds of emergencies that can arise and the site’s procedures for responding to each type of emergency, including how to use the respirator effectively in different emergencies.

4. Selection/Changing of Cartridges & Canisters

Workers need to come away from training with an understanding of how cartridges and canisters contribute to the protection provided by the respirator, the different kinds of exposures they’re designed to protect against and the estimated service life of cartridges and when they need to be replaced.

5. How to Put On & Remove Respirator

Workers need to be able to show they can put the respirator on and take it off the right way so that it fits right, i.e., the way it fit during fit testing.

6. How to Inspect & Check Respirator

Workers must be trained to recognize problems that may impair the respirator’s effectiveness and what to do if such problems arise, e.g., to whom they should report the problem. They also need to know how to inspect the respirator—unless you use specialized personnel to carry out inspections—and how to perform the necessary seal checks. 

7. How to Maintain & Store Respirator

Training must cover the procedures for maintaining and storing the respirator.

8. How to Recognize Medical Warning Signs

Trainees need to understand how to recognize the medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent them from using the respirator effectively, e.g., dizziness or shortness of breath.

9. The OSHA Standard

Training must cover the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard. You don’t need to go through the Standard provision by provision; all that’s needed is to ensure that workers have a general understanding of what the Standard requires, e.g., written Respiratory Protection Program, medical surveillance, fit testing, etc.


Respirator safety training must be conducted “in a manner that’s understandable” to the worker. The Standard also explains how and when respirator safety training must be provided.

Who Must Be Trained?

Safety training is mandatory for any workers required to use a respirator. You don’t need to any of your workers who choose to wear a respirator even though they’re not required to under the OSHA Standard or your Respiratory Protection Program. All you need to do is furnish them with the advisory information for voluntary respirator use contained in Appendix D of the Standard. 

When Must Training Be Delivered?

You must provide training before requiring the worker to use a respirator in the workplace. Training should be tailored to workers’ education level and the language they speak, according to OSHA guidance.

When Must Retraining Be Delivered?

You must provide retraining in the proper use of respirators at least once a year. You must also retrain workers when any of the following things occur:

  • Changes in the workplace or type of respirator render previous training obsolete;
  • Inadequacies in the worker’s knowledge or use of the respirator indicate that the worker hasn’t retained the understanding or skill needed; or
  • Any other situation arises in which retraining appears necessary to ensure safe respirator use.

Do Workers Who’ve Been Trained at Other Companies Need Retraining?

According to OSHA guidelines, you don’t have to repeat training of a new worker that you can show:

  • Has received training within the past 12 months; and
  • Is able to demonstrate the necessary knowledge required of a trainee required to use a respirator.

How Do You Verify that Training Has Been Effective?

Training involves more than simply delivering the required information. As noted above, the Standard requires that workers be able to “demonstrate knowledge” of proper respirator use. According to OSHA guidelines, this can be done by reviewing the training with the worker—either orally or in writing, and by reviewing the worker’s hands-on use of the respirator.

Respirator Training Checklist.