Responding to respirator shortages during the outbreak of novel coronavirus, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a memorandum allowing “enforcement discretion” by compliance officers citing the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR § 1910.134).
“OSHA recommends HCP [healthcare personnel] employers follow existing CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, including taking measures to conserve supplies of these respirators while safeguarding HCP,” the agency memo stated. “One such measure is that health-care employers may provide HCP with another respirator of equal or higher protection, such as N99 or N100 filtering facepieces, reusable elastomeric respirators with appropriate filters or cartridges, or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR).”1 OSHA instructed its field offices to exercise enforcement discretion on the annual fit-testing requirement as long as employers:
- Make a good-faith effort to comply with 29 CFR § 1910.134.
- Use only National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified respirators.
- Use CDC and OSHA methods to optimize the supply of N95s and prioritize their use.
- Perform initial fit tests with each employee using the same model, style, and size respirator that the worker will be required to wear.
- Inform HCP the annual fit-testing of N95 filtering facepiece respirators is suspended to preserve and prioritize the supply of respirators.
- Explain the importance of performing a fit check at each donning to ensure an adequate face seal, in accordance with the procedures outlined in 29 CFR § 1910.134, Appendix B-1.
- Conduct a fit test if there are any physical changes to the employee that may affect respirator fit (e.g., facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or obvious changes in body weight) and explain to workers that if their face shape has changed since their last fit test, they may no longer be getting a good facial seal with the respirator.
- Remind HCP to inform their supervisor or their respirator program administrator if the integrity and/or fit of their N95 is compromised.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Temporary enforcement guidance — healthcare respiratory protection annual fit-testing for N95 filtering facepieces during the COVID-19 outbreak. Published March 14, 2020. https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-03-14/temporary-enforcement-guidance-healthcare-respiratory-protection-annual-fit