ICPs to Obama: Stop OSHA enforcement of N95s

'Flawed' policy hurts patient care, they say

Three infection control organizations — the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology — have written President Barack Obama, requesting an immediate moratorium on OSHA enforcement of the use of N95 respirators in relation to novel H1N1.

The organizations warned that the current policy "will force health care facilities to waste time and resources working to comply with a flawed requirement when they instead should be working to enact measures that will have a beneficial impact on patient care and worker safety during this national emergency."

The organizations cited two recent studies that the associations say "reinforce our viewpoint on the use of surgical masks vs. respirators." The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, however, said in a statement that the Institute of Medicine report and Centers for Disease Control Guidance were based on other considerations.

"The current recommendation is based on the unique conditions associated with the current pandemic, including low levels of population immunity to 2009 H1N1 influenza, availability of vaccination programs well after the start of the pandemic, susceptibility to infection of those in the age range of health care personnel, increased risk for complications of influenza in some health care personnel (e.g., pregnant women), and the potential for health care personnel to be exposed to 2009 H1N1 influenza patients because of their occupation," NIOSH stated.

The infection control organizations assert that using N95 respirators could adversely affect patient care: "[B]ecause the respirators are cumbersome and make it more difficult to breathe and talk, health care workers may avoid their use or limit the time they spend with influenza patients."