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OSHA Releases Further Guidance on N95s

Monday, May 4, 2020

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued further interim enforcement guidance on the reusing of disposable N95 filtering face piece respirators (FFRs). This guidance focuses more on how to decontaminate the FFRs.

The guidance is the latest step since President Donald J. Trump’s memorandum last month on Making General Use Respirators Available in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Happened

Last month, OSHA released initial interim enforcement guidance to help combat the shortage of N95 filtering face piece respirators.

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

AnanR2107 / Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued further interim enforcement guidance on the reusing of disposable N95 filtering face piece respirators (FFRs). This guidance focuses more on how to decontaminate the FFRs.

If respiratory protection must be used, employers are to consider use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to an N95 FFR, such as National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved, non-disposable, elastomeric respirators or powered, air-purifying respirators.

If alternatives are not available, or when their use creates an additional safety or health hazard, employers are to consider the extended use or reuse of N95 FFRs or new N95 FFRs that were approved but have passed the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life.

The guidance took effect immediately and will remain in effect until further notice, however, it is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis, OSHA noted.

What Now

In OSHA’s most recent guidance, it cites the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which has identified available research that suggests the following methods for decontaminating FFRs:

  • Vaporous hydrogen peroxide;
  • Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation;
  • Moist heat (i.e., using an oven); or
  • Microwave-generated steam or liquid hydrogen peroxide.

OSHA also listed methods that are not considered acceptable at this time:

  • Autoclaving;
  • Dry heat;
  • Isopropyl alcohol;
  • Soap;
  • Dry microwave irradiation;
  • Chlorine bleach;
  • Disinfectant wipes; or
  • Ethylene oxide.

“Employers should investigate the effectiveness of any particular decontamination method used for the specific filtering facepiece respirator model to be decontaminated,” OSHA noted.

“Employers should be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of any decontamination method used against the likely contaminant(s) (i.e., pathogens) of concern, and that the decontamination method used does not produce additional safety hazards.”

This guidance also took effect immediately and remains in effect until further notice.

Previous N95 News

On April 2, Trump announced a memorandum on the Order Under the Defense Production Act Regarding 3M Company and its production of N95 masks.

That memo, which was issued to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, directed that Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, use any and all authorities available under the Act to acquire N95 respirators from 3M Company or any of its appropriate subsidiaries or affiliates.

“We have been working closely with the Administration to do exactly that, and we appreciate the authorities in the DPA that provide a framework for us to expand even further the work we are doing in response to the global pandemic crisis,” 3M said. “We look forward to working with FEMA to implement yesterday’s order.”

The order covers a to-be-determined number of masks that the Administrator will conclude to be appropriate.

Prior to this, at the end of last month, global coatings company PPG (Pittsburgh) announced that it would donate 80,000 masks to hospitals in Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, the Detroit area and Huntsville, Alabama, in support of COVID-19 relief. Sherwin-Williams also noted in its first quarter financial report for 2020 that the company had donated over 250,000 masks and other personal protective equipment from its stores to local first responders.

View all of PaintSquare Daily News' coverage on COVID-19, here.


Tagged categories: COVID-19; Department of Labor; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Safety

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