A survey of private sector respirator use in the United States: an overview of findings

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2005 May;2(5):267-76. doi: 10.1080/15459620590949020.


Limitations of previous surveys of respirator use led the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to undertake a survey of respirator use and practices among U.S. private sector employers. The survey was mailed to 40,002 private sector establishments in August 2001; the responses were used to develop national estimates. Respirator use was required in 4.5% of establishments and for 3.1% of employees. Of the establishments requiring respirator use, 95% used air-purifying respirators and 17% used air-supplied respirators. Manufacturing; mining (including oil and gas extraction); construction; and agriculture, forestry, and fishing had the highest rates of establishment respirator use. Respirators were used most frequently to protect against dust/mist, paint vapors, and solvents. Large percentages of establishments requiring respirator use had indicators of potentially inadequate respirator programs. Of establishments requiring respirator use, 91% had at least one indicator of a potentially inadequate respiratory protection program, while 54% had at least five indicators. The survey findings suggest that large numbers of employers may not follow NIOSH recommendations and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requirements for the selection and use of respirators, potentially putting workers at risk. The findings will aid efforts to increase the appropriate use of respirators in the workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S.
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Private Sector*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Workplace