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COVID-19 pandemic: OSHA issues temporary fit-testing enforcement guidance on PAPRs for high-risk workers

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Washington — OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidelines for fit testing of powered air-purifying respirators for workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The guidance applies when “initial and/or annual fit testing is infeasible” because of respirator shortages or shortages of fit-testing supplies, the agency states in an Oct. 2 memo. The guidelines apply only to health care personnel and other workers at high risk for exposure to the coronavirus, such as emergency responders, laboratory workers or mortuary workers.

The guidance does not apply to:

  • PAPRs not approved by NIOSH
  • PAPRs used by workers with low or medium exposure risk to COVID-19
  • PAPRs used by workers for protecting against non-COVID-19 airborne hazards, such as chemical exposures
  • Loose-fitting hooded PAPRs that don’t require fit testing

“If respiratory protection must be used, employers may consider the use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to a N95 filtering facepiece respirator, such as N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99, and P100 respirators and NIOSH-approved, non-disposable elastomeric respirators or powered air-purifying respirators, either loose-fitting or tight-fitting,” OSHA states in an Oct. 2 press release, adding that the guidance is in effect until further notice.

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