In the control of occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors, the primary objective shall be to prevent atmospheric contamination. This shall be accomplished as far as feasible by accepted engineering control measures (for example, enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials). When effective engineering controls are not feasible, or while they are being instituted, appropriate respirators shall be used pursuant to this section.
Respirators are designed to protect individuals from harmful airborne contaminants or low oxygen levels.
Respiratory protection programs establish acceptable practices for respirator use, responsibilities, and provides guidance on medical surveillance, proper selection, fit testing, use and care of respirators in accordance with the OSHA regulatory requirements.
OSHA has established hierarchy of controls requiring the use of feasible engineering controls as the primary means to control air contaminants. Respirators are required when " effective engineering controls are not feasible, or while they are being instituted." Paragraph (a)(2) requires employers to provide employees with respirators that are " applicable and suitable" for the purpose intended " when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of the employee."