US issues temporary guidance for powered air-purifying respirators

The new enforcement discretion policy has permitted the use of these tight-fitting respirators for protection against the coronavirus when initial and/or annual fit testing is infeasible due to supply shortages

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued temporary guidance for enforcing initial and annual fit-testing requirements related to tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators.

The action marks the Department's latest step to ensure the availability of respirators.

The new enforcement discretion policy permits the use of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators for protection against the coronavirus when initial and/or annual fit testing is infeasible due to respirator and fit-testing supply shortages. The guidance applies to healthcare personnel and other workers in high or very high exposure risk activities.

The guidance does not apply to powered air-purifying respirators that:

  • Have not been approved by NIOSH;
  • Are used by any workers with low or medium exposure risk to the coronavirus;
  • Are used by any workers for protection against airborne hazards other than the coronavirus, such as chemical hazards; or
  • Are loose-fitting and do not 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.

The organisation says that the interim guidance will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice.