OSHA tells health care employers how to decontaminate face masks
COVID-19Safety and Health
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued interim enforcement guidance on decontaminating and reusing disposable N95 filtering face piece respirators (FFRs) for protection against infectious agents, such as COVID-19 (coronavirus). The guidance applies to employers in the health care industry and doesn’t affect the use of disposable FFRs in facilities where the masks are used to filter other contaminants, such as dust. The guidance suggests that employers should first use engineering controls and other methods to reduce the need for respirators. In circumstances where respiratory protection must be used, and where sufficient supplies are unavailable, the guidance says decontamination methods that may be effective are vaporous hydrogen peroxide, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, and moist heat. Methods that currently aren’t effective include autoclaving (sterilization using high-powered steam), dry heat, isopropyl alcohol, soap, dry microwave, chlorine bleach, disinfectant wipes, and ethylene oxide. This guidance is time-limited to the current public health crisis. For further information, see Vigilant’s Legal Guide, Infectious Diseases in the Workplace, Model Policy, Respiratory Protection Program, and Model Form, Respirator Inspection Checklist, and talk with your Vigilant safety professional.