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NIOSH Respiratory Diseases Research Program

Evidence Package for the National Academies' Review 2006-2007

NIOSH Programs > Respiratory Diseases > Evidence Package > 8. Surveillance Activities

8.5 Respirator Usage in Private Sector Firms

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 Implementation of a comprehensive respiratory protection program by employers is an integral part of proper respirator use. To address a recognized need for nationally representative information on respirator use and practices in the workplace, RDRP and the BLS undertook a nationwide survey intended to provide information to develop educational interventions for specific industry sectors and populations that would ultimately increase the frequency and effectiveness or respirator use in the workplace.


 RDRP surveillance staff and BLS survey experts designed and conducted a voluntary survey of respirator use and practices from August 2001 through January 2002. The survey, involving a questionnaire mailed to a representative sample of U.S. employers, included detailed questions concerning respirator use and practices: the percentage of workers wearing respirators, types of respirators used, agents respirators used to protect against, the types of medical evaluation and respirator fit-testing conducted, and the qualifications of respiratory protection program administrators.

 Outputs and Transfer

 BLS/NIOSH [2003], “Respirator Usage in Private Sector Firms, 2001” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (A8-10). The report is available in a hard copy, on CD-ROM, and at

Approximately 16,000 printed and CD-ROM copies of this report were distributed (as of December 5, 2005). Copies were distributed at annual conferences of the National Demolition Association (2004 and 2005), American Road and Transportation Builders Association (2003 and 2004), American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006), construction worker and management training sessions, and at major respirator manufacturer meetings and public hearings on respirator regulation.

Intermediate Outcomes

Evidence suggests that “Respirator Usage in Private Sector Firms, 2001” was influential to others outside of RDRP. As of December 2005, the Web-based “Respirator Usage in Private Sector Firms, 2001” report had been viewed on-line approximately 6,800 times (a visit is defined as a 30-minute "session" of interaction with the site).

In addition, as a result the survey, the following were issued by OSHA and MSHA:

  • OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB 04-27-2004): Deaths Involving the Inadvertent Connection of Air-line Respirators to Inert Gas Supplies ( [External link]).
  • MSHA Health Hazard Alert: Airline Respirators ( [External link]). (As of July 2006, the total number of downloads of the MSHA Health Hazard Alert: Airline Respirators was 3,474. (This count excludes downloads by MSHA employees).

According to John Steelnack of OSHA's Directorate of Standards and Guidance, findings from the survey are being used extensively for regulatory reform for the proposed assigned protection factor of the OSHA 1910.134 Respiratory Protection standard.

 What's Ahead

 RDRP, in collaboration with National Demolition Association, has conducted some onsite visits to Houston (June 2006) and Chicago (July 2006) to determine how respiratory protection programs are implemented in the field. Information from these visits will be used, along with visits to 30 road and transportation building sites in the four major Census regions of the U.S. (planned for FY2007–2009), will be used by RDRP to help design interventions to improve respiratory protection programs in these sectors of the construction industry.