OSHA Issues New Guidance on Respiratory Protection in Long-Term Care Facilities

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November 9, 2020

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a respiratory protection guidance for nursing homes, assisted living, and other long-term care facilities (LTCF) during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This guidance recommends that everyone use “source control measures” at all times while in an LTCF, even if the wearer does not have symptoms of the virus.  “Source control measures” include face coverings, face masks, and FDA-cleared or authorized surgical masks.  The guidance may be found at respiratory protection guidance.

Health care providers who are in close contact with a LTCF resident with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection must use an N-95 filtering facepiece respirator or an equivalent or higher level respirator, as required by OSHA’s established Respiratory Protection Standard.  That Standard is discussed in the new guidance.  Among other things, the Standard mandates written, worksite-specific respiratory protection programs for situations requiring the use of respirators.

OSHA reiterates that due to the essential need for adequate supplies of respirators, it has temporarily allowed for flexibility in enforcing respirator requirements.  It encourages employers to continually assess their engineering and administrative controls, such as ventilation and practices for distancing, handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, in order to hold down the number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, so that “over-reliance” on respirators and other personal protective equipment may be avoided.

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