Ask the Expert, Personal Protective Equipment

Ask the Expert: OSHA’s SCBA Requirements

In our latest installment of Ask the Expert, brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a recent question from a subscriber asking about OSHA’s requirements for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA) in the workplace. See what the experts had to say. 

Q: What are the requirements of having SCBAs in your facility if they are not for HAZWOPER use?

Any employer that requires its employees to use Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA) or any other type of respirator must follow the requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard at 29 CFR 1910.134. This includes establishing and maintaining a written respiratory protection program that includes:

  • Procedures for selecting respirators for use in the workplace;
  • Medical evaluations of employees required to use respirators;
  • Fit testing procedures for tight-fitting respirators, including SCBAs;
  • Procedures for proper use of respirators in routine and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations;
  • Procedures and schedules for cleaning, disinfecting, storing, inspecting, repairing, discarding, and otherwise maintaining respirators;
  • Procedures to ensure adequate air quality, quantity, and flow of breathing air for atmosphere-supplying respirators, such as SCBAs;
  • Training of employees in the respiratory hazards to which they are potentially exposed during routine and emergency situations;
  • Training of employees in the proper use of respirators, including putting on and removing them, any limitations on their use, and their maintenance; and
  • Procedures for regularly evaluating the effectiveness of the program.

Employees required to use SCBAs must not have facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with valve function; or any condition that interferes with the face-to-facepiece seal or valve function. If an employee wears corrective glasses or goggles or other personal protective equipment (PPE), the employer must ensure that such equipment is worn in a manner that does not interfere with the seal of the facepiece to the face of the user.

For all tight-fitting respirators, including SCBAs, you must ensure that employees perform a user seal check each time they put on the respirator using the procedures in Appendix B-1 to 29 CFR 1910.134 or procedures recommended by the respirator manufacturer.

SCBAs must be clean, sanitary, and in good working order. The employer must ensure that respirators are cleaned and disinfected using the procedures in Appendix B-2 to 20 CFR 1910.134 or procedures recommended by the respirator manufacturer. SCBAs issued for the exclusive use of an employee must be cleaned and disinfected as often as necessary to be maintained in a sanitary condition. SCBAs issued to more than one employee must be cleaned and disinfected before being worn by different individuals. SCBAs maintained for emergency use must be cleaned and disinfected after each use. SCBAs used in fit testing and training must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

All SCBAs must be stored to protect them from damage, contamination, dust, sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and damaging chemicals, and they must be packed or stored to prevent deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve. Emergency SCBAs must be kept accessible to the work area, stored in compartments or in covers that are clearly marked as containing emergency respirators, and stored in accordance with any applicable manufacturer instructions.

All respirators must be inspected as follows:

  • All respirators used in routine situations must be inspected before each use and during cleaning;
  • All respirators maintained for use in emergency situations must be inspected at least monthly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, and must be checked for proper function before and after each use; and
  • Emergency escape-only respirators must be inspected before being carried into the workplace for use.

In addition to the above requirements, SCBAs must be inspected monthly. Air and oxygen cylinders shall be maintained in a fully charged state and must be recharged when the pressure falls to 90% of the manufacturer’s recommended pressure level. The employer must determine that the regulator and warning devices function properly. For further information about OSHA’s requirements for respirator inspections, see 29 CFR 1910.134(h)(3).

Employers must provide employees using SCBAs with breathing gases of high purity. The detailed specifications for breathing air can be found in 29 CFR 1910.134(i).

If the SCBAs are provided for employee use in immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) atmospheres, they must be full facepiece pressure demand SCBAs certified by NIOSH for a minimum service life of 30 minutes. For all IDLH atmospheres, the employer must ensure that:

  • At least one employee is located outside the IDLH atmosphere;
  • Visual, voice, or signal line communication is maintained between the employee(s) in the IDLH atmosphere and the employee(s) located outside the IDLH atmosphere;
  • The employee(s) located outside the IDLH atmosphere are trained and equipped to provide effective emergency rescue;
  • The employer or designee is notified before the employee(s) located outside the IDLH atmosphere enter the IDLH atmosphere to provide emergency rescue;
  • The employer or designee authorized to do so by the employer, once notified, provides necessary assistance appropriate to the situation;
  • Employee(s) located outside the IDLH atmospheres are equipped with pressure demand or other positive pressure SCBAs, or a pressure demand or other positive pressure supplied-air respirator with auxiliary SCBA; and either appropriate retrieval equipment for removing the employee(s) who enter(s) these hazardous atmospheres or equivalent means for rescue where retrieval equipment is not required.

All employees required to use SCBAs must be trained in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.134(k) before using the SCBA for the first time and at least annually thereafter. Additionally, employers that require SCBA use must establish and retain written information regarding medical evaluations, fit testing, and the respirator program.

For more information on the requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, see the Regulatory Analysis for the Respiratory Protection topic on

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