OSHA Issues Additional Respirator Guidance for Healthcare

Last week, the Department of Labor released additional interim enforcement guidance on reusing disposable N95 filtering face piece respirators that have been decontaminated.

OSHA has released a number of interim guidances for a number of industries—but among those most important have been the guidelines for healthcare workers dealing with suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients. OSHA’s latest interim guidance for healthcare workers, released on April 24, addresses reusing disposable N95 filtering face piece respirators (N95 FFRs) that have been decontaminated.

The guidance applies to workplaces where workers need respirators to protect against exposure to infectious agents that could be inhaled into the respiratory system, including during care of patients with suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus and other activities that could result in exposure to the virus.

The new release notes that the following methods should be followed if respiratory protection must be used and acceptable alternatives are not available (in accordance with OSHA's coronavirus related enforcement memoranda). The following methods are based on NIOSH research:

  • Vaporous hydrogen peroxide
  • Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation; and/or
  • Moist heat (i.e., using an oven)
  • If the methods above are not available, microwave-generated steam or liquid hydrogen peroxide could also be suitable

The following methods are not considered acceptable unless objective data that sufficiently demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of such methods become available:

  • Autoclaving;
  • Dry heat;
  • Isopropyl alcohol;
  • Soap;
  • Dry microwave irradiation;
  • Chlorine bleach;
  • Disinfectant wipes, regardless of impregnation (i.e., chemical saturation); and/or
  • Ethylene oxide.

This interim guidance is effective immediately. However, it is time-limited to the current public health crisis.

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