September 3, 2020

New Document Aids Compliance with Respiratory Protection Standard During COVID-19

A new document published by OSHA is intended to help employers understand and comply with the agency’s respiratory protection standard during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to shortages of respirators and fit-testing supplies, OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidance concerning the extended use of disposable respirators, the decontamination and reuse of filtering facepiece respirators, and the use of respirators that are certified under standards of other countries and not approved by NIOSH. The agency’s guidance allows its compliance safety and health officers to exercise discretion in cases that involve an employer that has implemented contingency or crisis strategies for respirator use that are not compliant with OSHA’s respiratory protection standard under ordinary circumstances. OSHA stresses that “deviations from normal respirator use come with increased risk for workers” and states that employers are expected to come into full compliance once supply chain issues are resolved.

“It is important for employers to understand that these temporary enforcement guidance memoranda do not offer blanket waivers or exemptions for complying with any OSHA standards or provisions of such standards, including the respiratory protection standard,” OSHA’s document states.

More information for employers seeking relief under OSHA’s temporary enforcement guidance can be found in the agency’s new resource (PDF).