Respiratory protection

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

NIOSH publishes toolbox talk

NIOSH respiratory protection

Photo: NIOSH

Washington — Knowing how to select, use and maintain NIOSH-approved respirators can help promote proper respiratory protection practices and protect construction workers from unsafe airborne contaminants, according to a new toolbox talk published by the agency.

NIOSH encourages employers to examine all avenues to reduce worker exposure to potentially dangerous dusts and fumes.

Among the first steps should be to try to eliminate or replace the hazard, implement engineering controls (e.g., local exhaust ventilation), or implement administrative controls (e.g., rotating workers between hazardous tasks). When these controls aren’t feasible or are insufficient in reducing harmful exposures, respiratory protection must be properly selected and users must be fit tested. Workers also must be trained and follow both employer and manufacturer instructions for proper use, inspection, maintenance and storage of respiratory protection devices. This includes proper donning and doffing of devices.

The agency reminds employers that they’re responsible for providing NIOSH-approved respirators as necessary to protect worker health, as required by OSHA in its standards on respiratory protection.

Among the types of devices that can be used to protect workers are filtering facepiece respirators; elastomeric half-mask respirators; and half-mask, full-facepiece and hood/helmet powered air-purifying respirators. For any employer providing respirators, the process must include direction from an OSHA-required written respiratory protection program.

NIOSH’s respiratory protection webpage features answers to nearly 20 frequently asked questions.

In addition, NIOSH sets recommended exposure limits for airborne contaminants and OSHA mandates legal enforceable permissible exposure limits, with which employers are required to comply.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

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

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

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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.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Respiratory Protection Week set for Sept. 7-10

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
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Photo: NIOSH

 NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory has marked Sept. 7-10 as its annual Respiratory Protection Week, an event intended to promote proper respiratory protection practices through the sharing of related research findings and educational tools.

In 2019, NIOSH expanded N95 Day, which had been observed since 2012, into Respiratory Protection Week.

As organizations continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, NIOSH says it has remained focused on developing information products to address frequently asked questions related to respiratory protection and personal protective equipment.

“This extraordinary time emphasizes the importance of respiratory protection and PPE,” NPPTL Director Maryann D’Alessandro said in a press release. “We are excited to spread awareness on this topic, spotlight our valuable resources and provide insight into our vision regarding the future of PPE.”

NIOSH is set to host separate one-hour webinars:

For more information, follow updates from @NIOSH_NPPTL on Twitter.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

NIOSH approves first elastomeric half-mask respirator without an exhalation valve

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First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Washington — NIOSH has approved – for both personal protection and source control – the first elastomeric half-mask respirator without an exhalation valve.

In a Nov. 16 agency news brief, NIOSH acknowledges concerns that filtering facepiece respirators and EHMRs with exhalation valves “may allow unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the environment,” compromising the equipment’s effectiveness to protect others if the wearer has COVID-19.

NIOSH notes that exhalation in EHMRs without exhalation valves is possible because the equipment’s particulate filters meet agency requirements, “thereby allowing it to also serve as a means of source control since it will maintain the high level of filtration upon exhalation.”

NIOSH published in the Sept. 14 Federal Register a Request for Information on the deployment and use of EHMRs in health care settings and emergency medical services organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial comment period was slated to end Oct. 14, but the agency extended it to Dec. 14.

Noting EHMRs’ low cost, ease of use, and ability to be cleaned and decontaminated, NIOSH anticipates the widespread use of the respirators will ease the demand for single-use N95 respirators in health care settings that are experiencing high numbers of COVID-19 cases.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

‘Extremely hazardous’: Alert warns against using ethylene oxide to sterilize masks, respirators

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Photo: nanthm/iStockphoto

Tumwater, WA — Ethylene oxide should not be used to sterilize filtering facepiece respirators for reuse because “this extremely hazardous toxic chemical poses a severe risk to human health,” the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries warns in a new alert.

Citing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington L&I cautions health care employers and other who sterilize respirators for reuse that ethylene oxide is a carcinogen that “has been linked to neurologic dysfunction and may cause other harmful effects” to the eyes, lungs, brain and nervous system. Further, prolonged exposure could lead to increased risk of reproductive issues and some cancers.

Washington L&I notes that ethylene oxide sterilization systems have not been approved by federal OSHA for personal protective equipment, and evidence suggests using one could result in off-gassing of ethylene oxide in the wearer’s breathing zone.

Although hospitals and clinics are required to use their ethylene oxide sterilizer systems for their intended and manufacturer-approved purposes, they “must NOT be used to sterilize masks, respirators, PPE or items worn by humans,” the alert states.

A shortage of N95 and other filtering facepiece respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic has led some health care facilities to sterilize PPE so it can be reused. In April, the National Institutes of Health recommended three effective methods for sanitizing N95 respirators for limited reuse: vaporized hydrogen peroxide, 70° C dry heat and ultraviolet light.

PPE users should refer to the CDC guidance on optimizing N95 respirator supplies and the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorizations regarding PPE for COVID-19, the alert adds.

OSHA allowing all employers to suspend annual respirator fit testing

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Photo: Memorystockphoto/iStockphoto

Washington — OSHA is extending its temporary leniency on annual respirator fit testing to all covered employers, not only those in the health care industry.

According to an April 8 press release, the agency is directing its field offices to exercise “enforcement discretion” on fit-testing regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance will remain in effect until further notice.

OSHA issued a memo March 14 stating the agency is allowing health care employers to suspend annual fit testing, in large part, to contend with a nationwide shortage of N95 filtering facepiece respirators.

Employers must still make “good-faith efforts” to comply with OSHA’s respiratory protection regulations, among other steps, including communicating to workers whether annual fit testing is suspended temporarily. The agency also is asking organizations to look at their engineering controls, work practices and administrative controls for any changes that could decrease the need for N95s or other filtering facepiece respirators. Among the suggestions are increasing the use of wet methods, use of portable local exhaust systems, moving work outdoors or suspending non-essential operations.

In response to concerns about a shortage of fit-testing kits and test solutions, OSHA advises employers to reserve fit-testing equipment for workers using respirators for “high-hazard procedures.” Field offices are asked to perform additional enforcement discretion if an employer switches a worker’s respirator to an equivalent-fitting make/model/style/size N95 or other filtering facepiece respirator without performing an initial fit test.

OSHA Guidance on Respiratory Protection and the N95 Shortage Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19) Pandemic

OSHA has issued guidance on the use and re-use of respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The guidance can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-04-03/enforcement-guidance-respiratory-protection-and-n95-shortage-due-coronavirus.  The OSHA press release is also below.

Per the release, the guidance “outlines enforcement discretion to permit the extended use and reuse of respirators, as well as the use of respirators that are beyond their manufacturer’s recommended shelf life (sometimes referred to as “expired”).

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new Enforcement Guidance for Respiratory Protection and the N95 Shortage Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19) Pandemic. This memorandum provides interim guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for enforcing the Respiratory Protection standard, 29 CFR § 1910.134, and certain other health standards, with regard to supply shortages of disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators.  Specifically, it outlines enforcement discretion to permit the extended use and reuse of respirators, as well as the use of respirators that are beyond their manufacturer’s recommended shelf life (sometimes referred to as “expired”). This guidance applies in all industries and will also be highlighted on the OSHA COVID-19 webpage shortly.

For further information about COVID-19, please visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention