Your browser is not supported

Your browser is too old. To use this website, please use Chrome or Firefox.

Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Use respirators in the workplace? Get ready for ministry inspections

If your employees wear respirators at work, get ready for a potential visit from a Ministry of Labour, Ontario Regulation 833 Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) inspector. Starting on July 4, 2023, inspectors will begin visiting workplaces where respirators are used to ensure that employers have an effective respiratory protection program in place.

“The legislation clearly outlines the employer’s duties when respirators are used,” says Warren Clements, Specialized Services Lead for Occupational Hygiene at WSPS. “During this inspection blitz, inspectors will look for evidence that employers are meeting these legislative obligations with a robust respiratory protection program.”

What is a respiratory protection program?

According to Ontario Regulation 833 and Ontario Regulation 490, when respirators are used in the workplace, the employer must develop a respiratory protection program—a set of policies and procedures related to respirator selection, use, and care that ensure workers have the protection they need.

When respirators are used at work, they must be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They must also be appropriate for the form and concentration of the exposure and must meet or exceed the assigned protection factor required for the specific chemicals present in the workplace. “Respirators are not all the same. There are all kinds,” explains Warren. “You have to make sure that the respirator type and associated cartridges and filters are suitable for the level and type of chemical that your workers are exposed to. For example, if you need protection from a powder, you need one type of filter. If you’re dealing with a solvent, you need a different filter.”

A respiratory protection program also requires written measures and procedures for the selection and safe use of the respirator. And then, you must train your workers on the procedures. “Every time a worker puts on a respirator, they need to check the seal, so they must receive training on how to do this properly,” says Warren.

Should workers use respirators in your workplace?

The legislation is clear on what employers must do when respirators are used in the workplace, but how does an employer determine if respirators are needed? How does an employer figure out what chemicals to measure? The answer is to start with a risk assessment. Measure the exposure levels in the work area to determine if workers are experiencing exposures over the limits outlined in the legislation.

Warren recommends referring to your safety data sheets (SDSs) to find out which chemicals in your workplace may result in airborne exposures. This will indicate which chemicals you should measure. If the results tell you that your workers are exposed to levels above the limits outlined in Ontario Regulation 833 and/or Ontario Regulation 490, you need to provide respirators to your workers. However, Warren points out that it’s not always straightforward. “What if your measurements are close to the limit, but not above it? Should you consider providing respirators? The answer is yes,” says Warren. “If you measure today and you’re close to the occupational exposure limit, tomorrow you could be above it,” he says. “It’s better to be safe and protect your workers.”

How WSPS can help


Connect with a WSPS occupational hygienist for guidance on developing your respiratory protection program.


Check out these free resources available to help you prepare for this inspection blitz.


Give your workers the skills they need to protect themselves with these WSPS training programs.

The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.

Share this:

Categorized in: WSPS