Tag: Face Masks

OSHA FAQs – Face Masks and Respirators in the Workplace

As the national economy reopens, an unprecedented number of workers will be required to wear faces masks in the workplace for the first time. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act), employers must provide a safe work environment for their workers. For many, this will include properly training workers on how to adequately use face masks and respirators at work. Download the PDF version This Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. Design ©2020 www.MyTPG.com All rights reserved. To help with this requirement, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a series of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the use of masks in the workplace. The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. The FAQs also remind employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. In addition, the guidance notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on washing face coverings. Action Steps Employers should become familiar with this guidance and train their employees on the proper use of face coverings, surgical masks, respirators and other personal protective equipment. Employers are encouraged to review other OSHA guidance about COVID-19 safety by visiting the OSHA Coronavirus website.   Highlights Cloth face coverings are not considered PPE and employers are not required to provide them. OSHA generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing measures. OSHA suggests following CDC recommendations, and always washing or discarding cloth face coverings that are visibly soiled. Employers must not use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. About This Guidance This guidance is not an OSHA standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. Frequently Asked Questions and Answers 1. What are the key differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators? Cloth face coverings: May be commercially produced or improvised (i.e., homemade) garments, scarves, bandanas or items made from t-shirts or other fabrics. Are worn in public over the nose and mouth to contain the wearer’s potentially infectious respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and to limit the spread of COVID-19, to others. Are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE). Will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents, due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration. Are not appropriate substitutes for PPE such as respirators (such as N95 respirators) or medical face masks (such as surgical masks) in workplaces where respirators or face masks are recommended or required to protect the wearer. May be used by almost any worker, although those who have trouble breathing or are otherwise unable to put on or remove a mask without assistance should not wear one. May be disposable or reusable after proper washing. Surgical masks: Are typically cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as medical devices (though not all devices that look like surgical masks are actually medical-grade, cleared devices). Are used to protect workers against splashes and sprays (i.e., droplets) containing potentially infectious materials. In this capacity, surgical masks are considered PPE. Under OSHA’s PPE standard (29 CFR 1910.132), employers must provide any necessary PPE at no cost to workers. If surgical masks are being used only as source control—not to protect workers against splashes and sprays (i.e., droplets) containing potentially infectious materials—OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide them to workers. However, the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, requires each employer to furnish to each of its employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Control measures may include a combination of engineering and administrative controls, including safe work practices like social distancing. Choosing to ensure use of surgical masks for source control may constitute a feasible means of abatement as part of a control plan designed to address hazards from COVID-19. May also be worn to contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets (for example, healthcare workers, such as surgeons, wear them to avoid contaminating surgical sites, and dentists and dental hygienists wear them to protect patients). Should be placed on sick individuals to prevent the transmission of respiratory infections that spread by large droplets. Will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents, due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration. May be used by almost anyone. Should be properly disposed of after use. Respirators (filtering facepieces): Are used to prevent workers from inhaling small particles, including airborne transmissible or aerosolized infectious agents. Must be provided and used in accordance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). Must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Please note that OSHA has temporarily exercised its enforcement discretion concerning supply shortages of disposable filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), including as it relates to their extended use or reuse, use beyond their manufacturer’s recommended shelf life, use of equipment from certain other countries and jurisdictions, and decontamination. Need proper filter material (N95 or better) and, other than for loose-fitting powered, air purifying respirators (PAPRs), tight fit (to prevent air leaks). Require proper training, fit testing, availability of appropriate medical evaluations and monitoring, cleaning, and oversight by a knowledgeable staff member. OSHA has temporarily exercised its enforcement discretion concerning annual fit testing requirements in the Respiratory Protection Standard, as long as employers have made good-faith efforts to comply with the requirements of the standard and to follow the steps outlined in the March 14, 2020, and April 8, 2020, memoranda (as applicable to their industry). When necessary to protect workers, […]

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