September 5th was a NIOSH-approved holiday, N95 Day! If you are an employee that participates in a N95 respiratory protection program, hopefully you were able to participate in N95 Day to learn more about N95 filtering facepiece respirators. Twitter chat and a webinar focusing on respirator preparedness in healthcare settings were highlights of N95 Day.
N95 respirators are designed to reduce a user’s exposure to airborne contaminants by filtering at least 95% of airborne particles. These respirators are not resistant to oil, and are not appropriate for exposure protection to gases or vapors. A common misconception is that N95 respirators are synonymous with surgical masks, however these two products are very different. N95 filtering facepieces are respirators and their use must therefore comply with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134. Surgical masks are loose-fitting facemasks that cover the nose and mouth without a tight seal. Surgical masks are designed to prevent the spread of large droplets from the user, and reduce splash and splatter to the mouth and nose. They are not intended to provide protection from airborne contaminants.
Remember that anytime a respirator is worn in a workplace setting, an evaluation of whether the respirator program is voluntary or mandatory needs to be conducted and the program implemented in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.134. Proper respirator selection is critical to providing appropriate protection. When implementing any respirator program, it is essential to inform users of the limitations of the respirators selected. This is particularly important when N95 respirators are in use because employees may assume that N95 respirators will provide exposure protection to gases and vapors.
If you were not able to participate in N95 Day 2014 or if you enjoyed participation, you can look forward to September 5, 2015!