All Points Medical Waste Blog

N95 Respirators for Healthcare Workers – What are OSHA Standards?

Here’s What You Need to Know

Healthcare workers are perhaps the most at risk for any infectious diseases and now, as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring they have the correct face coverings is a key step in mitigating health risks.

What’s the Difference Between Surgical Masks and N95 Respirators?

Surgical masks are typically worn by doctors, nurses and medical technicians to prevent bodily fluids from reaching a patient or medical equipment used in procedures. They are also used to prevent fluids from patients from reaching the healthcare worker, especially during surgeries. And while they act as a barrier between the wearer’s face and the surrounding environment, they are not designed to seal tightly around the face, so as a result, air can leak around the edges.

N95 Respirators also protect from bodily fluids but they are designed to help reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particulate hazards including both bio-aerosols like bacteria and viruses. They also have a filter and form a seal with the healthcare worker’s face so that air passes through the filter rather than around the sides and edges.

What are OSHA Requirements for N95 Respirators?

Just as there are OSHA mandates for bloodborne pathogens dealing with exposure to blood and other bodily fluids, OSHA has set standards for respiratory protection. Take a look:

The Respiratory Protection Standard rules for the use of N95:

  • Written Respiratory Protection Program (RPP) – OSHA provides a template for the Respiratory Protection Program.
  • Qualified Administrator – Staff Members can become the qualified administrator for N95s in your facility by educating themselves with all the resources available. A QA needs to have complete knowledge of the respiratory hazards of N95s, how to protect against the hazards and understand all of the Respiratory Protection Standard requirements.
  • Medical Clearance for employees to wear an N95 – Employees must be physically able to wear N95 respirators safely. Clearance to wear an N95 can be obtained without a physical exam if the OSHA provided questionnaire determines that. If there are questions as to the safety of N95 for a medical staff member, an exam may be in order.
  • Annual Fit Testing – Staff must be fitted properly for N95 and yearly checks are necessary under the Respiratory Protection Standard. This can be done in-house or by an outside agency to ensure all staff are properly fitted for their N95s.
  • Annual Training – Training is mandated before wearing an N95 and yearly thereafter. It’s imperative that every member of your staff knows how to properly put on their N95, how to wear it correctly, how to remove it and that the seal around the face is adequate.

During these challenging times, it’s critical that all medical professionals remain vigilant in protecting themselves against infection. Follow the above requirements to mitigate risks for your staff and your patients.

All Points Medical Waste is a full-service medical waste disposal company located in Stuart, Florida. We provide medical waste disposal to customers throughout South Florida, including hospitals, physician offices, clinics and treatment centers, surgery centers and more. Give us a call today or fill out this form to learn more.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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