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New OSHA Memo on COVID-19 and N95 Respirators

Posted on March 17, 2020 by Roger Marks

Fearing a possible supply shortage of N95 filtering facepiece respirators due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the US, OSHA issued temporary enforcement guidance related to the Respiratory Protection Standard at 29 CFR 1910.134.  

In the memo, issued March 14, OSHA orders its field officers to “exercise enforcement discretion concerning annual fit testing requirement for respirators” found at 29 CFR 1910.134(f)(2). Enforcement personnel will apply discretion in situations in which respirators are needed to protect health care provider employees.

OSHA’s intention is to ensure that, if healthcare providers are facing a shortage of N95 masks, the masks that are available will be used in situations where they are needed to protect healthcare personnel from COVID-19.

OSHA Field Officers will exercise enforcement discretion as long as the employer makes a good faith effort to comply with 29 CFR 1910.134 and satisfies a list of other requirements.  

Initial fit testing requirements still apply, as do requirements for maintenance, care, and annual employee training under the Respiratory Protection standard. 29 CFR 1910.134(k) requires training for employees who are required to wear respirators. Annual re-training is required and the training “must be comprehensive” and “understandable.”

Healthcare employer should review CDC’s guidance Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators.

CDC has also created a Hospital Preparedness checklist to help providers prepare for the arrival of patients with COVID-19.

Read the full Enforcement Guidance Memo here. 

Read more from Lion:  
Medical Clearance for Respirator Use 
OSHA Rules for Hazards in Healthcare 

OSHA Respiratory Protection Training 

Lion’s Respiratory Protection Online Course can help health care providers and other employers meet the annual training requirement for employees who wear respirators. This safety training is available in English and Spanish.
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