OSHA is providing employers with guidance that addresses the shortage of N95 and other filtering face piece respirators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The expanded temporary guidance applies to all workplaces covered by OSHA where respirator use is required.

OSHA said its inspectors will exercise enforcement discretion for annual fit-testing requirements, providing employers have made a good faith effort to comply with the agency's respiratory protection standard and follow the steps outlined in this memorandum.

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the use of face masks and respirators worldwide, leading to a shortage of them.

OSHA is advising employers to assess their engineering controls, work practices, and administrative controls regularly to identify areas where they can decrease the need for N95s or other filtering face piece respirators.

Wet Methods

One consideration could be increasing the use of wet methods or portable exhaust systems, or moving certain operations outdoors, OSHA advises.

Employers may also consider suspending certain non-essential operations that require FFRs, and should prioritize use of fit-testing equipment to protect workers who use respirators for high-hazard procedures.

If a respirator model is out of stock and there are no fit-testing capabilities, employers should see if the manufacturer recommends a different model that fits similarly to the out-of-stock model.

OSHA said field offices may exercise discretion when an employer switches to an equivalent model N95 or other FFR without first performing an initial quantitative or qualitative fit test.

This expanded guidance will remain in effect until further notices\ and is intended to be limited to the pandemic.

For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).