OSHA Releases Notice on Respirator Fit Testing During COVID-19
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued two notices clarifying existing requirements for respirator fit-testing and their agency policy waivers during COVID-19.
March 14, 2020 OSHA issued a notice temporarily waving the annual (not initial) fit-testing requirement for respirators and recommended discontinuing use of “quantitative” fit testing instead of “qualitative” fit testing for health care workers during the pandemic. April 8, 2020 OSHA issued a second notice expanding this to all covered employers.
Employers must make “good-faith efforts” to comply with OSHA’s respiratory protection regulations, among other steps, including communicating to workers whether annual fit-testing is suspended temporarily. The agency also is asking organizations to look at their engineering controls, work practices and administrative controls for any changes that could decrease the need for N95s or other filtering face-piece respirators.
OSHA will exercise discretion and not issue citations to employers for violations of the annual fit testing requirement as long as they perform initial fit tests and satisfy a number of requirements including using only NIOSH-certified respirators, training employees on respirator use, while continuing to making a good faith effort to comply with other requirements under OSHA’s respiratory protection regulation. This guidance is intended to preserve the supply of respirators, since quantitative testing is destructive, and it was in response to President Trump’s March 11, 2020 directive for federal agencies, including the Department of Labor, to take steps to increase the availability of respirators for health care workers.
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