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Respiratory Fit Testing and Training

Respiratory Protection

UTHSC personnel wearing a respirator must complete a three-step process prior to wearing a respirator. This is necessary to comply with state law, UTHSC procedures and to ensure your health and safety. Continue reading below for information about respirators and the process that must be completed to use them.

1. Medical Evaluation

Complete the Medical Evaluation Questionnaire and submit to Occupational Health for approval to wear a respirator. This ensures that you are physically capable of wearing a respirator without a risk to your health.

2. Training

Complete respirator training on Blackboard or as directed by your supervisor.  This informs you about the UTHSC Respiratory Protection Program and how to use your respirator. (Required annually)

3. Fit Testing

Email labsafety@uthsc.edu to schedule a fit test.  Confirm your respirator fits properly to provide the necessary protection. (Required annually.) PAPR users do not require fit testing.

A variety of people may require the use of respirators in a variety of situations. Here at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, the most common people requiring the use of respirators are:

  • Medical students
  • Medical residents
  • Postdoctoral researchers
  • Scientific researchers
  • Hazardous materials spill response
  • UTHSC Facilities skilled tradesmen

Whenever possible engineering controls like a fume hood or biosafety cabinet are preferred over respirators as a form of protection. In health care environments, when effective engineering controls are not feasible, or some occasions where engineering controls are being implemented, it may be necessary for researchers to use respiratory protection (i.e. a respirator). A respirator is required when UTHSC students and employees may be exposed to airborne biological materials, high concentrations of particulates, or hazardous chemical vapors and fumes such as the following instances:

  • Contact with patients suspected of producing airborne infectious agents, such as, tuberculosis, influenza, SARS, etc.
  • Using hazardous chemicals or infectious biological agents for scientific laboratory research
  • Using anesthetic gases during surgical procedures involving animals
  • Handling hazardous chemicals used by engineering, maintenance, and custodial operations
  • Melting, grinding, welding a variety of metals

When handling hazardous chemical or biological materials researchers are required to apply the hierarchy of controls to mitigate the risk associated with the materials with which they are working. All UTHSC personnel that are required to where a respirator must comply will all elements of the Tennessee OSHA Respiratory Protection standard and the UTHSC Respiratory Protection policy. Workers that are not required to where a respirator but who choose to do so voluntarily must do so in accordance with the provisions of voluntary respirator use after reading the information provided on the OSHA website.

TOSHA (Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires the following before an employee may wear a respirator:

  • Medical approval to wear a respirator
  • Annual training
  • Annual fit testing of tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable N-95 face-filtering respirators, half-face respirators, and full-face respirators). (*Note: Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) do not require fit testing, but will still require medical approval and annual training.)

First Things First! Obtain Medical Approval from University Health Services

All employees wearing a respirator, whether voluntarily or as a requirement of their job, must complete a medical evaluation questionnaire to be reviewed by Occupational Health before wearing a respirator. Using a respirator may place a physiological burden on an employee that varies with the type of respirator, workplace conditions, and medical status of the employee. This medical evaluation is intended to ensure that you are physically capable of wearing a respirator without posing a threat to your health and well-being. Complete a Medical Questionnaire for Respirator Users and contact University Health Services to arrange an appointment to be evaluated. They will notify the employee and the employee’s supervisor in writing if he/she is approved or disapproved to wear a respirator.

For employees who have received previous medical approval, additional medical evaluations are only necessary under the following conditions:

  • The employee is instructed to be re-evaluated by an Occupational Health Nurse
  • There is a change in the employee's medical status
  • There is a change in workplace conditions that may result in a significant increase in the physiological burden placed on the employee.

Next Step Before Respirator Fit Testing: Complete Respiratory Protection Training

Training is required annually or when changes to the workplaces require additional specialized safety training. Respirator training for the following types of respirators is available the UTHSC BlackBoard training website and the proper training module should be selected for the type of respirator you will be wearing (N95 Disposable Respirators, half-face or full-face negative pressure respirators, or Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs). Simply select the “Courses” tab and enter respirator into the search bar. The results should show Research Safety Affairs training modules listed. A passing score of 80% must be obtained. If you require specialized, hands on training, please email labsafety@uthsc.edu to schedule your training.

Now You Are Ready! Get Fit Tested

Before wearing either an N95, half-face or full-face respirator you must be fit tested to ensure that the respirator that you have selected fits adequately to provide protection of hazardous materials. Respirator users must renew their fit test within 12 months of their last evaluation. To schedule a fit test please email labsafety@uthsc.edu. It is not necessary to be fit tested if you will be wearing a PAPR.

Please have your respirator selected and purchased to bring to the fit test session. ALL RESPIRATORS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL! There are many types and models and only certain ones will adequately protect you from the particular hazard that you may encounter in your job responsibilities. For help choosing the appropriate respirator for your particular job hazard, please email labsafety@uthsc.edu to discuss and agree upon a particular type, manufacturer, model, and size.

A tight fitting, negative pressure respirator requires a complete seal between your face and the respirator. This means that facial hair may not interfere with the seal. Please refer to this graphic developed by NIOSH to give you a good representation of what will be allowed and what will not be allowed to perform respirator fit testing.


For more information, see the Respiratory Protection Plan or email labsafety@uthsc.edu.

Last Published: Mar 12, 2021