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OSHA Issues New Guidance on Use of N95 Respirators

Published on

April 6, 2020

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and the shortage of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), the Occupational Safety and Health Commission has issued temporary guidance for enforcing the Respiratory Protection Standard and other health standards. The guidance applies to all workplaces where employees use N95 FFRs.

All employers are instructed to “reassess their engineering controls, work practices, and administrative controls to identify any changes they can make to decrease the need for N95 respirators.” OSHA offers a number of suggestions, including moving operations outdoors, suspending non-essential operations, or using other National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved FFRs.

Where alternatives are not available or would create additional safety hazards, the guidance permits employers to use or reuse N95 FFRs that were NIOSH-approved but have since passed the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life. If extended use or reuse becomes necessary, an N95 FFR may be used by the same worker only, as long as the respirator maintains its structural and functional integrity and the filter material is not physically damaged, soiled or contaminated. Users should perform a user seal check each time they wear a respirator and should not use the respirator if they cannot perform a successful user seal check. The guidance imposes training and policy requirements on employers should they need to implement extended use or reuse of N95 FFRs.

For health care employers only, the guidance states that expired N95 FFRs should never be used during care of a COVID-19 infected patient and reiterates CDC guidelines on optimizing supply of respirators.

If your businesses commonly uses the N95 FFRs and you have questions on this latest guidance, please contact me or any member of the Barley Snyder Employment Practice Group.

DISCLAIMER: As we face an unprecedented time of legal and business uncertainty, we are working to provide updates on the status of important legal news related to COVID-19. It is important to note that the situation is changing rapidly and the information provided in our alerts is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information contained in our alerts is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. If you have questions about your legal situation or about how to apply information contained in this alert to your situation or about how any other information found on our website may affect your business, you should reach out to one of our attorneys. We assume no responsibility for the accuracy or timeliness of any information provided herein or by any linked site. As information changes rapidly, users are strongly advised to verify any information before relying upon it.

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