This article was originally published on 3/24/2020 written by Jessica Goldfarb.
By Larry Cook
Below is a link to the OSHA Interim Guidance issued on April 3, 2020, for employers to combat supply shortages of N95 FFRs and to comply with the respiratory protection standard (29 CFR sec. 1910.134)
If respiratory protection must be used, employers may consider use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to N95 FFRs. These devices include National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved, non-disposable, elastomeric respirators or powered, air-purifying respirators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidance when considering N95 FFR alternatives. Employees are permitted to extend the use of or reuse N95 FFRs as long as the respirator maintains its structural and functional integrity and the filter material is not physically damaged, soiled or contaminated.
In a March 17th press conference to update the public on the coronavirus, the White House made a plea to the construction industry to donate their N95 face masks to local hospitals so as to help healthcare workers on the frontlines protect themselves in this fast developing crisis. Vice President Pence said,
“We would make one specific request, and that is we would urge construction companies to donate their inventory of N95 masks to your local hospital and forgo additional orders of those industrial masks.”
This statement comes as Congress works to enact legislation that would include liability protections for manufacturers of the N95 mask…but the law hasn’t even passed yet.
So, the question for those in the construction industry that need these types of masks in order to do their work is do I donate supplies that are necessary for workplace safety? The answer at this point in time is it depends.
Construction trades such as painters and drywall contractors need these types of masks in order to do their work – work that is now more critical than ever. A donation of one’s stockpile could have significant impacts on the livelihoods of these workers. There is already a shortage of N95 masks because of public panic that wiped out the supply in response to the coronavirus. A measured approach seems to be the better course. Keep only a basic supply to maintain the safety of your workers for currently scheduled jobs, and donate your excess inventory to a local hospital to help the cause of healthcare workers taking care of all our families.