Safety regulator provides business with guidance on reuse of N95 masks and alternatives.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on April 3 issued interim enforcement guidance to help combat supply shortages of disposable N95 filtering face piece respirators (N95 FFRs). The guidance provides for the use of equal or higher protection masks such as reusable respirators with replaceable filters. Also, the employers can consider reusing disposable N95 masks or those past the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life.
Collision repair facilities and suppliers have made donations of excess personal protection equipment (PPE) and N95 masks to medical providers.
According to the OSHA announcement on the guidance:
Due to the impact on workplace conditions caused by limited supplies of N95 FFRs, employers should reassess their engineering controls, work practices and administrative controls to identify any changes they can make to decrease the need for N95 respirators.
If respiratory protection must be used, employers may consider use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to an N95 FFR, such as National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved, non-disposable, elastomeric respirators or powered, air-purifying respirators.
When these alternatives are not available, or where their use creates additional safety or health hazards, employers may consider the extended use or reuse of N95 FFRs, or use of N95 FFRs that were approved but have since passed the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life, under specified conditions.
This interim guidance will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. This guidance is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis. Visit OSHA’s Coronavirus webpage regularly for updates.