U.S. Department of Labor Issues Additional Respirator Guidance for Healthcare During The Coronavirus Pandemic
WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued interim enforcement guidance on reusing disposable N95 filtering face piece respirators (N95 FFRs) that have been decontaminated. The action marks the Department’s latest step to ensure the availability of respirators, and follows President Donald J. Trump’s Memorandum on Making General Use Respirators Available.
The guidance applies to workplaces where workers need respirators to protect against exposure to infectious agents that could be inhaled into the respiratory system, including during care of patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus and other activities that could result in respiratory exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus.
If respiratory protection must be used, and acceptable alternatives are not available for use in accordance with OSHA’s previous coronavirus related enforcement memoranda, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has identified available research that suggests the following methods offer the most promise for decontaminating FFRs:
- Vaporous hydrogen peroxide;
- Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation; and/or
- Moist heat (i.e., using an oven).
- If the methods above are not available, microwave-generated steam or liquid hydrogen peroxide could also be suitable.
The following methods are not considered acceptable unless objective data that sufficiently demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of such methods become available:
- Dry heat;
- Isopropyl alcohol;
- Dry microwave irradiation;
- Chlorine bleach;
- Disinfectant wipes, regardless of impregnation (i.e., chemical saturation); and/or
- Ethylene oxide.
Employers should investigate the effectiveness of any particular decontamination method used for the specific filtering facepiece respirator model to be decontaminated. Employers should be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of any decontamination method used against the likely contaminant(s) (i.e., pathogens) of concern, and that the decontamination method used does not produce additional safety hazards.
This interim guidance will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice; however, this guidance is time-limited to the current public health crisis. Visit OSHA’s Coronavirus webpage regularly for updates.
For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.