April 13, 2023

NIOSH Issues Guidance on Verifying Respirator Shelf Life

In March, NIOSH published a new fact sheet (PDF) on assessing the shelf lives of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs). Although the agency does not currently require providers of approved FFRs to designate shelf lives for their products, a recent NIOSH study has “noted numerous challenges that the PPE community experiences when trying to locate FFR shelf life information,” the fact sheet states.

According to the fact sheet, respiratory protection program (RPP) and stockpile managers may not be certain whether a product can be used when information about shelf life is absent or difficult to find. NIOSH recommends that users contact the approval holder to inquire about the equipment’s shelf life. Users will first need to identify the FFR’s approval, model or part, and lot numbers, which may be found on respirator units, packaging, or approval labels.

Shelf life information, when determined, should be incorporated into users’ RPPs, stockpile documentation, and other procedures. To ensure that FFRs are used within their recommended shelf lives, RPP managers may employ a “first-in, first-out” approach in which FFRs that are purchased first are used first. Regardless of shelf life information, the fact sheet recommends users replace FFRs that are damaged, soiled, wet, or difficult to breathe through, as required by OSHA’s respiratory protection standard.

The fact sheet is part of a series titled “Personal Protective Equipment Conformity Assessment Studies and Evaluations Notes” or “PPE CASE Notes,” which aims to inform respirator users about common themes or trends identified by NIOSH through processes related to agency-approved respirators. NIOSH’s website provides more information, as well as a link to download the new fact sheet.