Question: We’re thinking of requiring employees who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 (coronavirus) to wear an N95 mask at work, but would we have to implement a full respiratory protection program?
Answer: No, if your primary reason for requiring an unvaccinated worker to wear a filtering facepiece respirator such as an N95 is for source control rather than respiratory protection (personal protective equipment, or PPE) for the wearer, Oregon OSHA says you don’t have to implement a full respiratory protection program or even perform a medical evaluation. Oregon OSHA stated this position in a workplace advisory memorandum dated October 1, 2021. However, the agency went on to say that other respirators may pose a hazard to employees. If you require an unvaccinated worker to wear a respirator other than an N95 or other filtering facepiece respirator, you must conduct a medical evaluation to be sure they can safely work while wearing it, even if your reason for requiring the respirator is for source control. You don’t have to implement the remaining requirements of a complete respiratory protection program, however, as long as your primary aim in requiring a respirator is source control (to prevent a potentially infectious wearer from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace).
If you decide to allow employees to voluntarily wear N95s or other filtering facepiece respirators to protect themselves from COVID-19 or any other airborne hazard, you must provide a special disclosure to employees who choose to do so. See our Model Form, Respirators: Requirements for Voluntary Use. To learn what a full respiratory protection program would entail, see our Model Policy, Respiratory Protection Program, and contact your Vigilant safety professional for guidance.