The novel coronavirus that has spread across the globe and current COVID-19 pandemic being faced by our nation has changed daily reality for all Americans. Nowhere has the focus been more important though than for those front line workers and healthcare faculty that must treat and come into contact with infectious patients who have acquired the virus.
To protect these workers, PPE equipment has become an essential necessity. The spike in need of this equipment has also created an immediate shortage of important protective equipment especially respirator masks.
As a result of the current situation, OSHA issued temporary guidance that will help healthcare workers have access to the N95 respiratory protection they need to protect them from the respiratory disease.
OSHA has said that while the use of respirators is still mandatory for health practitioners, due to the shortage, employers can provide them with a respirator of equal or higher protection, such as N99 or N100 filtering facepieces, reusable elastomeric respirators with appropriate filters or cartridges, or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR) to ensure proper protection is still given.
Along with modifications to the type of respirators used, there has also been guidance issued about annual respirator fit testing requirements.
OSHA has said as part of its temporary guidance, that healthcare employers should switch from a quantitative fit testing method to a qualitative testing method. This move is another push to help preserve the integrity of the scarce amount of N95 respirators that are available.
What that means is that employers should perform fit tests for employees using the same model, style, and size respirator they will be using. After they put it on, employees should also make sure the respirator has a good seal as well as visually inspect the respirator to ensure there is nothing compromising its integrity.
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