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New U.S. Guidance Issued for N95 Respirator Shortage

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (Washington, DC, USA) recently issued interim enforcement guidance to help combat supply shortages of disposable face piece respirators with N95 filters (N95 FFRs).

The action marks the department’s latest step to ensure the availability of respirators for a wide range of industrial users.

Due to the impact on workplace conditions caused by limited supplies of N95 FFRs, OSHA is advising employers to reassess their engineering controls, work practices, and administrative controls to identify any changes they can make to decrease the need for N95 respirators.

If respiratory protection must be used, employers may consider use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to an N95 FFR, such as non-disposable, elastomeric respirators approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Another option is powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs).

When these alternatives are not available, or if their use creates additional safety or health hazards, OSHA says employers may consider the extended use or reuse of N95 FFRs. Another option, according to the agency, is using N95 FFRs that were approved but have since passed the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life, under specified conditions.

The interim guidance takes effect immediately and remains in effect until further notice. According to OSHA, this guidance is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis, as it pertains to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

More updates are available at OSHA’s Coronavirus web page, while additional information about COVID-19 is available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDChttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/).

Source: OSHA, www.osha.gov.