Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Respirator Selection for Specific Environments


Respirators for use in areas where biohazards are used or stored must be selected based on a review of the biohazardous agent, workstation design, standard operating procedures and protocols. The EHS Biosafety Officer will determine the appropriate biosafety levels for laboratories and will work with the Industrial Hygienists to determine the corresponding level of respiratory protection required.

Animal Handlers

Although airborne exposures to dusts derived from animals are not currently regulated to protect workers from developing allergic problems, there is a large body of evidence that handling animals can induce respiratory health problems such as asthma, allergic reactions and sensitizations. It is the goal of Virginia Tech to prevent such occurrences and educate the employees about the available controls and personal protective equipment. Enrollment in the Respiratory Protection Program is available for any employee who chooses to wear a tight-fitting respirator in order to perform their job duties.

IDLH Situations

If Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) contaminant levels are known or suspected at any time, the area must be vacated and EHS must be notified immediately. IDLH means an atmosphere that poses an immediate threat to life, would cause irreversible adverse health effects, or would impair an individual's ability to escape from a dangerous atmosphere. No Virginia Tech employee is permitted to enter in a space that might contain an IDLH situation unless additional training in the use of an SCBA or air-line respirator has been completed and an appropriate trained rescue team is standing by. If the area is a confined space, the atmosphere must be deemed safe before anyone can enter. The employeee must have knowledge of confined spaces hazards, controls and work practices. Please see https://www.ehss.vt.edu/programs/confined_spaces.php for information about confined spaces or call Robin Miller at 231-2341.

Respirators for Emergency Use

Emergency escape respirators may be stored for work areas identified as having the potential for dangerous leaks or spills. Prior to assigning emergency response duties to employees, contact EHS to establish appropriate SOPs, respirator inspection schedules, and emergency management planning. The supervisor for the area should ensure employees have received training on the proper use of the emergency respirators, inform staff where the emergency respirators are located, and under which conditions the use of such respirators is required.

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