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COVID-19: OSHA Issues COVID-19 Enforcement Guidance on Respirator Reuse

  • Published
  • 27 April 2020
  • Category
  • News

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released interim enforcement guidance on the reuse of decontaminated filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) on April 24.

The guidance applies to workplaces in which workers need respirators to protect against exposure to infectious agents that could be inhaled, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The guidance does not apply to other types of contaminants, such as dust particles. Under the directive, OSHA health and safety inspectors are allowed to exercise enforcement discretion related to the reuse of FFRs that have been decontaminated using specific methods described in the guidance when considering issuing citations under 29 CFR § 1910.134(d) and/or equivalent respiratory protection provisions of other health standards.

According to the enforcement guidance, affected employers are expected to:

  • Make a good-faith effort to ensure employees use the most appropriate respiratory protection available.
  • Follow recommendations contained in Decontamination and Reuse of Filtering Facepiece Respirators Using Contingency and Crisis Capacity Strategies.
  • Ensure users perform a seal check each time they don a respirator and not use it if the seal is faulty.
  • Train employees how to evaluate respirator structural and functional integrity, and on proper use.
  • Avoid the use of decontaminated FFRs when health care personnel perform surgical procedures on patients infected with, or potentially infected with, SARS-CoV-2, or are present for procedures expected to generate aerosols or in which respiratory secretions are likely to be poorly controlled (e.g., cardiopulmonary resuscitation, intubation, extubation, bronchoscopy, nebulizer therapy, sputum induction).

If decontamination methods degrade FFR performance, including filtration and fit, or otherwise affect structural integrity, the decontaminated FFR may not provide the level of protection needed or expected during aerosol-generating procedures, the memorandum states.

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