OSHA, MSHA, & FRA Regulation Highlights

Employer Responsibilities
  • Use engineering controls as far as possible to prevent atmospheric contamination.
  • Provide a suitable respirator to each employee where necessary.
  • Establish and maintain a respiratory protection program.
  • Appoint a trained program administrator.
Respiratory Program Elements
  • Respirator selection procedures.
  • Medical evaluations of employees required to use respirators.
  • Fit testing for tight-fitting respirators.
  • Respirator use procedures.
  • Respirator maintenance procedures.
  • Procedures to ensure air quality, quantity and flow for atmosphere-supplying respirators.
  • Employee training in respiratory hazards.
  • Employee training in respirator use and maintenance.
  • Procedures for evaluating respiratory program effectiveness.
  • Provide program, including equipment, at no cost to employees.
Respirator Selection
  • Respirators for conditions Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) must have full faceplates and, if self-contained, have a service life of at least 30 minutes.
  • Respirators must meet or exceed the Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) in 1910.134(d)(3)(i)(A).
  • Respirators must be appropriate for chemical state and physical form of contaminant.
  • Respirators for use against gasses and vapors must be atmosphere-supplying or air-purifying.
  • Respirators for use against particulates must be atmosphere-supplying or air-purifying. If air-purifying, must have a HEPA filter (30 CFR part 11) or filter certified by NIOSH in 42 CFR part 84.
Medical Evaluation
  • Employer must nominate a physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP) to perform medical evaluations using a questionnaire or physical exam.
  • The questionnaire or exam must obtain information in Sections 1 and 2, Part A of Appendix C of the regulation.
  • Employer must provide a follow-up exam for an employee who gives a postive answer to questions 1-8 in Section 2, Part A of Appendix C.
  • The evaluation must be confidential and administered during normal working hours or at a time and place convenient to employee.
  • The following must be supplied to the PLHCP prior to recommendation:
    • Type and weight of respirator used by employee
    • Duration and frequency of use
    • Expected physical work effort
    • Additional clothing and equipment to be worn
    • Temperature and humidity extremes of work environment
Medical Determination

The PLHCP's recommendation to the employer must contain only the following:

  • Limitations on respirator use
  • Need for follow-up medical evaluations
  • Statement that PLHCP has provided employee with copy of written recommendation
Additional Medical Evaluation

The employer must provide additional evaluations when:

  • Employee reports medical signs or symptoms related to ability to use respirator
  • PLHCP or supervisor or other administrator informs employer that employee needs to be reevaluated
  • Respiratory program information, including observations during fit testing, indicates need for reevaluation
  • Workplace conditions change, causing greater physiological burden
Fit Testing
  • Before first use, employee must be fit tested with same make, model, style, and size as will be worn.
  • Fit testing must be done annually or when any element of the respirator changes.
  • Test must use OHSA-accepted qualitative or quantitative protocol.
  • Qualitative testing may only be done on negative pressure air-purifying respirators that must achieve a fit factor of 100 or less.
  • Passing fit factors for quantitative tests are 100 for tight-fitting half-faces and 500 for tight-fitting full-faces.
  • Testing of tight-fitting atmosphere-supplying or air-purifying respirators may use either qualitative or quantitative methods by adapting respirator facepiece as appropriate.
Respirator Use
  • Tight-fitting respirators may not be used when there is any condition that intereferes with seal or valve, including facial hair, glasses, or other personal protective equipment.
  • Employees must perform a seal check each time equipment is worn.
  • Employer must monitor work conditions and reevalute respirator requirements when conditions change.
Employees must be made to leave respirator area:
  • To wash face and facepieces to prevent skin irritation.
  • If they detect vapor or gas breakthrough, changes in breathing resistance or facepiece leakage.
  • To replace filter, cartridge, or canister elements.
IDLH Procedures
  • At least one employee must be located outside IDLH atmosphere.
  • Communcation must be maintained between employees in and outside of IDLH atmosphere.
  • Employees outside IDLH atmosphere are trained in emergency rescue.
  • Prior to rescue, employees outside IDLH atmosphere must notify employer.
  • Employees outside IDLH atmosphere are equipped with "positive demand" self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) or similar suppied-air apparatuses.
  • Employees outside IDLH atmosphere are equipped with retrieval equipment.

When combatting interior structural firefighting, the following conditions must also be met:

  • At least 2 employees must enter IDLH atmosphere and remain in constant contact
  • At least 2 employees must be outside IDLH atmosphere
  • Self-contained breathing apparatuses must be used
Respirator Maintenance

Cleaning and Disinfecting:

  • Employer must supply clean and disinfected respirators.
  • Respirators worn by multiple individuals must be cleaned before each use.
  • Respirators for emergency use must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
  • Respirators for fit testing must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.


  • Respirators must be stored away from contaminants, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals.
  • Respirators must be packed to avoid deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve.
  • Respirators must be stored in a location accessible to work area, in clearly marked containers.


  • Employers must inspect respirators before each use and during cleaning.
  • Respirators for emergency use must be inspected monthly.
  • Escape-only respirators must be inspected before use.
  • Respirators for emergency use must be certified using documentation that includes inspection date, inspector name, findings, any remedial action, and respirator serial number. A tag with this information must be kept with respirator.

Maintenance checks must include:

  • Respirator function.
  • Tightness of connections.
  • Integrity of elastomeric parts.
  • Condition of parts, including: facepiece, head straps, valves, connecting tubes, cartridges, canisters, filters.
  • SCBA tanks must be at 90% of manufacturer's recommended pressure level or greater.
  • Regulator and warning devices.
Respirator Air Quality

SCBA and supplied-air respirator air must meet the following specifications

  • Oxygen content of 19.5 - 23.5%
  • Less than 5 milligrams per cubic meter of hydrocarbon
  • Less than 10 ppm carbon monoxide
  • Odor free
  • Purchased air cylinders must meet Grade D breathing air
  • All filters, cartridges, and canisters must be labeled and color coded with NIOSH approval label.

Employees must demonstrate knowledge of:

  • When respirator is necessary
  • How improper fit compromises function
  • What respirator limitations are
  • Emergency respirator use
  • Inspection procedures
  • How to put on and remove respirator
  • Maintenance and storage procedures
  • Medical signs and symptoms limiting effective use

Training requirements:

  • Understandable to employee
  • Prior to requiring respirator use
  • Annual or when workplace changes render previous training obsolete or an employee does not retain required skills
  • Medical evaluations must be retained and made available in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1020.
  • Fit test records must include: employee name; type of fit test; make, model, style, and size of respirator; test date; test results.
  • Fit tests must be retained until next test administered.
  • Employee must have written copy of respirator program.
Who Must Be Tested
  • Those exposed to 85 dBA or more on 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).
  • You must notify those exposed to 85 dBA or more of noise monitoring results.
  • Must provide protectors to those exposed to 90 dBA on 8-hour TWA.

Employers must annually train those exposed to 85 dBA on 8-hour TWA or more in following:

  • Effects of noise on hearing
  • Purpose of hearing protectors
  • Advantages and disadvantages of types of protectors
  • Instructions on selecting and fitting hearing protectors
  • Use and care of hearing protectors
  • Purpose of hearing testing and explanation of testing procedures
Testing Frequencies

Requires testing at 500, 1K, 2K, 3K, 4K, and 6K frequencies. 8K optional.

Baseline Audiogram
  • Conduct baseline hearing test for exposed employees within 6 months of employment or 1 year if using mobile testing.
  • Baseline test must be preceded by 14 hours of non-noise exposure or wearing of hearing protectors.
Annual Audiogram
  • Annually conduct hearing tests for those exposed to 85 dBA TWA.
Standard Threshold Shifts (STSs)

Definition: change in average of 2000, 3000, and 4000 frequencies of 10 dBA or more in either ear with optional allowance for aging.

You have 30 days to retest an STS, and may substitute the retest for the original.

Must perform these tasks when STS occurs:

  • Notify employee in writing of STS within 21 days of test
  • If employee not wearing hearing protectors, fit with hearing protectors and train in their use and care
  • If employee wearing hearing protectors, refit protectors and retrain in their use and care
  • If additional testing necessary or wearing of protectors causes medical pathology, refer for clinical evaluation
  • If medical pathology suspected that's unrelated to wearing of protectors, notify of need for otological examination
  • Provide hearing protectors that attenuate exposure to 8-hour TWA of 85 dBA or less
Baseline Revision

Annual audiogram may be substituted for baseline when audiologist judges STS to be persistent or if significant improvement over baseline.


Definition: Standard Threshold Shift (STS) plus non-age-corrected average of 25 dB or more in 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz frequencies.

Recording Rules:

  • Log Recordable unless planning retest within 30 days
  • If retest confirms Recordable, log within 7 days
  • If subsequent tests show Recordable not persistent, may line off Recordable in log
  • If professional determines loss to be non-work-related, may line off Recordable in log
  • Noise exposure measurements must be kept for two years
  • Audiometric tests must be kept for duration of the employee's employment
  • All records must be provided to employees or former employees upon request

MSHA rules are largely the same as the OSHA rules with the following notable exceptions.


Mine operator must offer audiometric testing. Miner participation is voluntary.

Must receive results of testing within 30 days from date audiogram conducted.

Testing technician must be certified.

Dual Hearing Protection

Miner exposed to 8-hour TWA of 105 dBA or more must wear both plugs and muffs.


Must provide hearing conservation training to worker within 30 days of employment.


Must notify worker of STS or Reportable within 10 working days of receiving test results.

May conduct one retest within 30 days of receiving test results.


Employee considered reportable when there is an average change of 25 dB or more in 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz frequencies of either ear from baseline. Thresholds may be age adjusted.


Keep audiometric test records for duration of miner's employment plus six months.


FRA rules are largely the same as OSHA rules with the following notable exceptions.

Frequency of Testing and Training

Must offer testing and training annually; must complete testing and training every 3 years.

Testing Frequencies

Requires testing at 8 KHz frequency (optional in OSHA).


Retests allowed within 90 days (OSHA retest window is 30 days).

STS Notification Period

Notify employee of STS within 30 days (OSHA limit is 21 days).

Maximum Exposure

Exposures up to 120 dBA allowed for up to 5 seconds (OSHA maximum is 115 dBA).

Program Management

Physician or audiologist must be in charge of hearing conservation program. If Physician, physician must have experience and expertise in hearing and hearing loss.