Because of the current shortages and the dire need for access to N95 respiratory protection, OSHA has issued temporary guidance designed to get more masks into the hands of healthcare workers. Healthcare employers should provide employees caring for patients with N95 or higher level protection, including N99 and N100 facepieces, reusable elastomeric respirators with appropriate filters or cartridges, and powered air-purifying respirators.
To meet this need, healthcare employers should use a qualitative testing method. And OSHA is not requiring field offices to cite healthcare employes for violations of annual fit testing requirements — if employers meet the following criteria (directly from OSHA):
- Make a good-faith effort to comply with the respiratory protection standard
- Use only NIOSH-certified respirators
- Implement strategies recommended by OSHA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for optimizing and prioritizing N95 respirators
- Perform initial fit tests for each healthcare employee with the same model, style, and size respirator that the employee will be required to wear for protection from coronavirus
- Tell employees that the employer is temporarily suspending the annual fit testing of N95 respirators to preserve the supply for use in situations where they are required to be worn
- Explain to employees the importance of conducting a fit check after putting on the respirator to make sure they are getting an adequate seal
- Conduct a fit test if they observe visual changes in an employee’s physical condition that could affect respirator fit
- Remind employees to notify management if the integrity or fit of their N95 respirator is compromised
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