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Temporary Guidance on Tight-fitting Powered Air Purifying Respirators

Posted on 10/8/2020 by Lauren Scott

On October 2, OSHA issued temporary guidance on the use of tight-fitting powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) during the COVID-19 global health emergency.

The OSHA enforcement memo concerns initial and annual fit-testing for tight-fitting PAPRs approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and used for protection from the COVID-19 by workers at high or very high exposure risk. This includes healthcare workers, emergency responders, lab technicians, and others.   

The main takeaway is that OSHA officers will exercise enforcement discretion in cases where initial or annual fit-testing of a covered respirator is not feasible due to shortages of respirators or fit testing supplies. To qualify for leniency, the employer must comply with all other applicable requirements of the Respiratory Protection Standard at 29 CFR 1910.134.

American facilities have faced shortages of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), respiratory testing supplies, gloves, face shields, and other PPE in the midst of the COVID_19 public health crisis. That is why OSHA is clarifying the role of PAPRs: who should use them, when to use them, and how not to use them.

What’s a PAPR?

A PAPR is an air-purifying respirator that uses a blower to force air through filter cartridges or canisters and into the breathing zone of the wearer. This creates an air flow inside the facepiece in order to provide a higher assigned protection factor (APF) than non-powered air-purifying masks, or N95 FFRs.

PAPRs are typically used when the wearer is at greater risk of aerosol pathogen exposure, such as during medical procedures. Like many other respirators, a fit test is required to achieve optimal effectiveness of the PAPR.

OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard requires annual training for employees who are required to wear respirators at work.

PAPR Alternatives 

OSHA requires employers to identify and evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace when deciding if and which respiratory protection is appropriate [29 CFR 1910.134(d)(1)(iii)]. If an employee is found to require a PAPR to safely perform their job duties, the employer should make every effort to secure a NIOSH-approved PAPR through reputable sources.

When PAPRs are not available, employers may consider the use of alternative respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to N95 FFRs, such as other FFRs (N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99, and P100) and NIOSH-approved, non-disposable loose or tight-fitting elastomeric respirators or PAPRs.

Employers whose workers use respiratory protection (either as a requirement for their job duties or used voluntarily) must continue to manage their respiratory protection programs [29 CFR 1910.134(c)(1) ] and follow all other guidance in the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard.

Protect Your Employees With COVID-19 Safety Training

To help US workplaces safely resume and continue operations, Lion has launched the COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness Online Course. As more employees nationwide return to work, it is crucial that they know how to protect themselves and their co-workers from exposure to COVID-19.

The course prepares employees to:
  • Recognize signs, symptoms, and risk factors for COVID-19.
  • Describe how the COVID-19 disease is transmitted.
  • Follow recommended hygiene and work protocols to prevent exposure.
  • Properly use and care for PPE and face coverings, when required.

Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, N95, osha, PPE, respirator, SARS CoV-2, workplace safety

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