U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance for Using Tight-Fitting Powered Air Purifying Respirators Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued temporary guidance for enforcing initial and annual fit-testing requirements related to tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators. 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 new enforcement discretion policy permits the use of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators for protection against the coronavirus when initial and/or annual fit testing is infeasible due to respirator and fit-testing supply shortages. The guidance applies to healthcare personnel and other workers in high or very high exposure risk activities.
The guidance does not apply to powered air-purifying respirators that:
- Have not been approved by NIOSH;
- Are used by any workers with low or medium exposure risk to the coronavirus;
- Are used by any workers for protection against airborne hazards other than the coronavirus, such as chemical hazards; or
- Are loose-fitting and do not require fit testing.
If respiratory protection must be used, employers may consider the use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to a N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator, such as N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99, and P100 respirators and NIOSH-approved, non-disposable elastomeric respirators or powered air-purifying respirators, either loose-fitting or tight-fitting.
This interim guidance will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. It is intended to be 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.