OSHA’s Temporary Respirator Compliance Guidance During COVID-19: What Employers Need to Know

We continue to see the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace in many ways, including regulations and temporary enforcements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA recently issued temporary enforcement guidance for the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134). This is based on N-95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) and fit testing supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an employer, it is important to understand these changes to remain compliant and learn what citations can be issued.

  • Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) now have enforcement discretion on a case-by-case basis when issuing citations under the Respiratory Protection standard.
  • This enforcement discretion is applied when circumstances beyond the employer’s control prevent compliance and the employer makes the effort to both obtain and conserve supplies.
  • Employers are “expected to explore options and modify practices to assure the best available protection for workers.” These include P-100s, non-disposable, and foreign respirators that are not NIOSH-approved.
  • When supply chain issues are resolved, employers are expected to come into full compliance.
  • These temporary enforcement guidelines do not “offer any blanket waivers or exempts for complying with any OSHA standards or provisions of standards.” Non-compliance still violates the standard.

As an employer, you need to demonstrate that you made “unsuccessful but objectively reasonable efforts to obtain and conserve supplies of FFRs and fittesting supplies as outlined in the memoranda.”  Make sure that you document everything so that you can show the CHSO that you have maintained a fully compliant, Respiratory Protection Program (RPP) and have done all that you can to monitor, obtain and conserve the supply and use of N95 respirators.

Resources for employers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to both prioritize and conserve the use of N95 respirators include:

While not for all industries, many will need this guidance and help deciphering OSHA’s temporary enforcement guidelines on the Respiratory Protection standard. Your Rose & Kiernan, Inc. Risk Management Team is knowledgeable on this topic and is here to help. Contact us here or by calling 800-242-2433.

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