OSHA now permits use of tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators used as protection against the coronavirus when fit testing can’t be accomplished due to supply shortages.
The agency released new guidance Oct. 2 allowing use of tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) if initial or annual fit testing is infeasible because of supply shortages of respirator and fit-testing supplies.
This applies only to healthcare personnel and other workers in high or very high exposure risk activities, according to a Department of Labor news release.
The guidance doesn’t apply to powered air-purifying respirators that:
- aren’t approved by NIOSH
- are used by workers with low or medium exposure risk to the coronavirus
- are used by workers for protection against airborne hazards other than the coronavirus, such as chemical hazards, or
- are loose-fitting and do not require fit testing.
In situations where respiratory protection has to be used, employers may consider using alternative classes of PPE providing equal or greater protection to an N95 filtering facepiece respirator such as:
- NIOSH-approved, non-disposable elastomeric respirators, or
- powered air-purifying respirators, either loose-fitting or tight-fitting.
This guidance takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until further notice, but it’s intended to be limited to the current public health crisis, the news release states.