OSHA Guidance on Respirator Fit-Testing in Health Care During COVID-19 Outbreak
On March 14, 2020, OSHA issued guidance for health care employers, which (1) temporarily waives the annual (not initial) fit-testing requirement for respirators, and (2) recommends discontinuing “quantitative” fit testing and instead using “qualitative” fit tests for health care workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
OSHA will exercise discretion during the COVID-19 outbreak and not issue citations to health care 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, and 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.
Also, OSHA recommends that employers supply health care workers who provide care to known or suspected coronavirus patients with N95 masks or “another 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.”