N95 respirator approval, fit testing and efficiency: New fact sheets from NIOSH

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

N 95 masks

Washington — NIOSH has issued a pair of fact sheets on filtering facepiece respirators, detailing how to tell if an N95 is approved by the agency as well as procedures for fit testing and testing filtration efficiency.

With an NIOSH-approved respirator, “you can be confident that it is working as expected” as long as it is properly maintained, is worn and used correctly, fits properly, and is replaced as recommended by the manufacturer.

“NIOSH only approves respirators that pass its strict quality assurance and performance requirements,” the agency says. During its tests, NIOSH uses a “near worst-case penetrating aerosol size (i.e., particles that are best able to make it through a filter).” An N95 respirator must block at least 95% of those particles, which typically measure at 0.3 microns in diameter.

The fact sheet on fit testing and filtration efficiency testing covers the types of fit tests: qualitative and quantitative. It also includes a short checklist to ensure an N95 is protecting the user.

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Understanding Compliance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic

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The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the availability of respirators and fit-testing supplies. This document is intended to help employers understand and comply with OSHA’s temporary enforcement guidance for the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR § 1910.134).

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a public health emergency that has dramatically increased demand for respirators, particularly N-95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), as well as fit-testing supplies ordinarily used to ensure that respirators fit workers properly and provide the expected level of protection. Shortages (either intermittent or extended) of both FFRs and fit-testing supplies have posed tremendous challenges. In order to allow essential operations to continue, many employers have had to utilize contingency and crisis strategies that are ordinarily not compliant with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard. Examples of contingency and crisis strategies include: extended use of disposable FFRs, decontamination and reuse of disposable FFRs, and the use of foreign FFRs not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It is important for employers to understand that deviations from normal respirator use come with increased risk for workers that, in certain circumstances, may only be allowable during this public health emergency because the alternative of no respiratory protection presents a greater danger to workers. In order to ensure adequate protection for workers during the use of contingency and crisis strategies, OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidance to its Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs). This guidance allows CSHOs to exercise enforcement discretion in cases involving workplace exposures and an employer that is unable to comply with certain provisions of the Respiratory Protection standard because of supply shortages and has thus found it necessary to implement contingency or crisis strategies for respirator use by workers. Read More»

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