Respirator Donning, Doffing, and Seal Checks Safety Talk
If your workplace or job requires the use of a respirator, it is vital to understand and follow the proper procedures for using the respirator issued to you. Proper donning and doffing of the respirator are critical aspects of using this equipment. Donning means to put on and doffing means to take off. In addition to any required fit testing, a user seal check should be performed every time a respirator is put on. This safety talk provides a general overview of donning, performing user seal checks, and doffing common types of respirators.
General Information Regarding Respirator Use
Each respirator will come with manufacturer guidelines for specific instructions on how to put on the respirator, perform a user seal check, and take off the respirator. Although instructions for different brands of respirators are similar, it is very important to follow the instructions specific to the one you will be using.
It is also important to remember that a user seal check is not the same as a fit test. Fit testing should be performed prior to the user’s first time using a respirator and at least once annually thereafter. Refer to OSHA standard CFR 1910.134(f) for fit testing requirements.
The purpose of a user seal check is to verify the respirator has a proper seal and position on the user’s face. This should be done every time it is put on.
The information below is to provide a general understanding of how donning, user seal checks, and doffing are performed. Always refer to the specific manufacturer instructions prior to performing any of the below procedures for your specific respirator.
General Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirator (N-95 or Dust Mask)
Donning: First, inspect the respirator to ensure there are no tears or damage to the mask. If you identify any damage, replace it as this type of respirator is disposable. Next, using one hand, place the respirator on your face ensuring the respirator covers the bridge of your nose and cups your chin. Using your other hand, pull the top strap over your head. The strap should rest high at the back of your head. Next, pull the bottom strap over your head. The bottom strap should be placed around your neck and below your ears. It is vital that your nose and mouth are covered by the respirator and the straps are not crossed. If the respirator has a metal nosepiece, use your fingertips to mold the metal piece to the shape of your nose to create the proper seal.
User Seal Check: Two different user seal checks should be performed (positive and negative). To perform the positive seal check, gently exhale to see if the facepiece bulges slightly. To perform the negative seal check, take a quick, deep breath to see if the facepiece collapses slightly. In either of these checks, if air leaks between your face and the face seal, you do not have a proper seal. The respirator should be readjusted, and seal checks above should be repeated. If you cannot create a proper seal, do not enter the hazardous area and seek assistance from a supervisor to determine how to resolve the issue.
Doffing: To take off the respirator, you should remove it without touching the exterior facepiece as it may be contaminated. Refer to your company’s policy for procedures to discard the respirator accordingly.
Half Facepiece Elastomeric Respirator (Half Mask)
Donning: First, inspect the respirator for any damaged, loose, or missing parts. If you identify any damage to the respirator, either repair as per the manufacturer’s guidelines or replace it. Next, if any replaceable particulate filters are used, install those according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Then using one hand, place the respirator on your face ensuring the respirator covers the bridge of your nose and cups your chin. With your other hand, pull the bottom strap over your head so that it is flat and smooth against the back of your neck. Next, pull the head harness over the crown of your head. Once the respirator is in place, adjust the straps and placement to ensure it is comfortable and stable on your face and head.
User Seal Check: Two different user seal checks should be performed (positive and negative). To perform the positive seal check, place the palm of your hand over the exhalation valve outlet at the front of the respirator. Then, exhale gently and hold your breath for a few seconds to create pressure inside the facepiece. Inspect to see if the facepiece bulges slightly and there are no air leaks. To perform the negative seal check, cover the filters or cartridges attached to the facepiece with the palms of your hands. Then, inhale gently to determine if the facepiece collapses slightly and ensure there are no air leaks. In either of these checks, if you identify leakage, you do not have a proper seal. The respirator should be readjusted, and the seal checks above should be repeated. If you cannot create a proper seal, do not enter the hazardous area and seek assistance from a supervisor to determine how to resolve the issue.
Doffing: To take off the respirator, you should loosen the straps and avoid touching the cartridges or filters as they may be contaminated. Refer to your company’s policy for procedures to properly clean, disinfect, and store the respirator after use.
It is important that respirators are donned and doffed correctly. After a respirator is put on, seal checks should always be performed to ensure a proper seal has formed. If you are unable to create a proper seal, then you should not enter the hazardous area as you will not have the proper protection. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper donning, performing a seal check, and doffing procedures.
- When should seal checks be performed?
- When doffing a disposable respirator, what should the user avoid touching?
- What can prevent the respirator from sealing properly?