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N95 Respirator Shortage Prompts New OSHA Fit-Test Guidance

April 9, 2020, 2:14 PM

Coronavirus-induced shortages of N95 respirators have led federal workplace safety regulators to temporarily set aside a requirement for annual respirator fit testing.

As long as employers make a “good faith effort” to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s respiratory protection standard (29 C.F.R. 1910.134) and adhere to agency guidance, OSHA won’t cite employers for violations of the annual respirator fit testing mandate the agency announced late Wednesday.

The exception expires once the public health crisis ends, OSHA said.

Employers still need to conduct initial fit tests when workers are issued respirators for the first time, the memo said. Employers also need to remind workers to check that respirators seal correctly each time they put one on, and provide only respirator models approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

OSHA issued a similar exception on March 14, but it applied only to health-care employers.

N95 and similar respirators frequently are used by workers in dusty conditions or where airborne particles are a hazard, such as construction, landscaping, manufacturing, and painting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com

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