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University of Colorado Denver

Environmental Health and Safety, University of Colorado Denver

Research Safety and industrial Hygiene

Respiratory Protection

Some working environments and processes require the use of respiratory protection when engineering controls and administrative practices alone do not provide sufficient worker protection. The decision and approval to use a respirator typically requires a risk assessment.  For assistance or to schedule a risk assessment, contact Environmental Health and Safety (303-724-0345). Review the respirator program flow chart for an overview of the process. You may also review the EHS Respiratory Protection Frequently Asked Questions Document for answers to commonly asked questions.

Many work assignments at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus require use of an N95 Respirator based on well understood working conditions and risk factors. For those workers, the process to obtain N95 or equivalent respiratory protection is described below and does not require an individual risk assessment for normal working situations. It should be understood that the N95 mask provides limited and specific protection to the user, and it is important to complete training and become aware of the limitations of the protection offered with these masks. If your department has indicated that you need to obtain fit testing for N95, follow the process listed below. N95 respirators do not provide protection from chemical or radioactive materials.

If you believe you require respiratory protection other than N95, contact EHS at (303) 724-0345, or email the Industrial Hygiene Representative

Getting Started

If an EHS risk assessment demonstrates that you must wear a respirator, or you need to wear an N95 respirator based on your job duties or location (pre-determined assessment), you must enroll in the respiratory protection program by completing the following steps:

  • Complete the following paperwork and either take it to the EHS Occupational Health Nurse in the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at 12348 East Montview Blvd., Aurora, CO 80045, mail it to Beth Strimpel at Mail Stop H275, or email it to Both forms must be completed, submitted and approved before training and fit testing can be completed.
      • Respiratory Program Initial Clearance Form - Upon initial enrollment in the program, you and/or your supervisor must fill this form out and provide information on the nature of your work. This same form is then signed by the medical health care provider who grants medical clearance to wear a respirator.
      • Respiratory Program Medical Questionnaire - Fill this form out yourself. It contains several pages of health questions for you to answer and provides information to the health care professional that will help determine if you can safely wear a respirator, and whether additional medical assessment is required. Depending on your funding source, there is a fee for the health care provider to review the questionnaire ($50.00) that will be paid by your department or program if you are an employee of the University of Colorado Denver / Anschutz Medical Campus. This fee is waived for most sponsored research-related work. You should be prepared to provide a Speedtype with your submission. 
  • Complete Training: You must complete training before using a respirator of any type.
      • N95 training must be completed online. Review the instructions for accessing the CU: N95 Respirator Safety course.   
      • For all other respirators, take the Skillport Respirator training available online. Review the instructions for accessing the SkillPort Respiratory Protection Training.
      • If you will wear a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR), you must take the Skillport training and schedule a personalized training or obtain training guidance from EHS for the specific type of PAPR you will use. 
  • Fit Testing: You must be fit tested to the model, style, and size respirator you will ultimately use. If you use more than one type, you must be fit-tested for all models. Please click the Fit Testing tab above for more information about the fit-test process.
  • See the respirator program flowchart (link on the left of this page) for information on respirator-specific requirements.


You must complete training before using a respirator of any type.  There is no charge for training.

Training must be completed before you can be fit tested and receive final approval to use a respirator. Proof of training is required before you will be fit tested. Training must be completed annually for use of a respirator.

Once training is completed and your Health Clearance Form and Medical Questionnaire are reviewed, EHS will contact you to schedule a fit test.

Non- N95 Users
Training for other than N95 respirators must be completed on SkillPort.  Review the instructions for accessing the SkillPort Respiratory Protection Training.

N95 Users
Training for N95 respirators is now available on SkillPort. Review the instructions for accessing the CU: N95 Respirator Safety course.

Fit Testing

Fit testing is conducted to ensure that your individual respirator (size, make, model) fits you properly and forms a secure seal to your face.  An improper fit can result in exposure to hazardous materials.  The test must be conducted in accordance to regulatory and industry standards. 

Before your fit-testing, each employee must first submit a Health Clearance Form and Medical Questionnaire to the Occupational Health Nurse and then complete N95 Training. Once you complete training and the heath clearance form is approved, you may be scheduled for a fit test.  To schedule a fit test contact the Industrial Hygiene group within the University EHS Department at 303-724-0345 or email

You need to repeat fit testing every year (or more frequently if there has been a significant change to facial structure or weight change of 10 lbs or more) or anytime you obtain a new or different respirator will be used. 

Depending on your funding source, there will be a potential fee of $49.00 for the fit test.  Please know the SpeedType number for the account you wish to use to pay this fee.  This fee is waived for most sponsered research and academic activities.

Note: Fit testing conducted by UCD EHS is quantitative and calibration of the testing unit requires advanced preparation. Though your testing should not last longer than a half hour, an hour is typically scheduled for conducting each person’s testing. Due to the nature of prep work needed for the instrumentation, walk-ins cannot be accommodated.

Review the Important Information section before coming to your fit test.

Risk Assessment

If you believe that you require respiratory protection or are unsure about the potential air borne exposures in your work setting, you may request that EHS conduct a risk assessment.  A risk assessment is required before you can be assigned or use a respirator (other than N95 used in pre-assessed conditions) because potential exposure conditions vary. The type of respiratory protection needed is based on the nature of the work activity, the work environment, the airborne concentrations and nature of the contaminants, and the availability of oxygen. 

You or your department must contact EHS to schedule an assessment of your work environment and work tasks (risk assessment).  Based on the assessment, EHS will determine:

    • if you should enroll in the respiratory protection program (see the "Getting Started" tab),
    • the nature of the respiratory protection needed (if required), and
    • they will provide guidance on:
          • appropriate respirator use,
          • the type filter/cartridge required, the cartridge change out schedule, and
          • the proper maintenance and care of your respirator.  

Please contact the ECIH Manager if you have questions.

Important Information

For instrument testing (quantitative testing), you must not smoke for at least thirty minutes prior to fit-testing because the affects can interfere with the instrument readings. If the instrument is being serviced or is otherwise unavailable, a "taste or smell" test is used (qualitative fit test). This test requires that the wearer NOT eat or drink anything but water for one hour prior to the fit test.

You must bring a respirator with you to get fit tested. Because of the many different styles and models of respirators available, EHS cannot provide respirators for fit testing. Contact your department or PI for information on which respirator is provided. It is recommended that you bring several sizes of the respirator to increase the likelihood of a passing result.

The N95 respirator and other respirator types (other than PAPR) are only effective when in full contact with the skin. Hence, wearers must ensure that any facial hair is shaven from the areas where the mask touches the face each and every time you use your respirator. If you will be wearing glasses or goggles while using your N95, please bring these with you to your fit test session.

You must obtain a new fit test annually and any time you have a change that can impact the fit of your mask. If any of the following occurs, you must schedule a new fit test (you won't need to repeat training and/or the medical forms to re-do fit testing unless you were due for refresher training, etc.)

  • Weight gain or loss of 10 pounds or more
  • Significant dental changes — such as new dentures, front teeth capped or veneered, braces, etc.
  • Changes to facial features — plastic surgery, broken nose or jaw, etc.
  • Facial hair changes — i.e., you grew a goatee or mustache
  • New glasses, or other head gear that is affected by the mask or vice versa
  • Change in the brand, type, model or size of the mask you use.

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