OSHA Releases Resource for Understanding Compliance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard

COVID-19

The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new resource to help employers understand compliance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the increased demand and shortage of PPE, particularly N-95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) and fit-testing supplies, many employers have had to utilize contingency and crisis strategies. In order to ensure adequate protection for workers during the use of contingency and crisis strategies, OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidance to its Compliance Safety Health Officers (CSHOs). The guidance allows the CSHOs to exercise enforcement discretion when considering issuing citations in cases where employers are unable to comply with certain provisions of the Respiratory Protection standard. This discretion is applied only when circumstances beyond the employer’s control prevent compliance with certain parts of the Respiratory Protection standard and the employer makes objectively reasonable efforts to obtain and conserve supplies.  
 
It is important for employers to understand that the OSHA temporary enforcement guidance does not offer blanket waivers or exemptions for complying with any OSHA standards or provisions of such standards, including the Respiratory Protection standard (e.g., annual fit-testing requirements). The memoranda allow for enforcement discretion by CSHOs during the COVID-19 pandemic period only in circumstances where an employer can demonstrate that it made unsuccessful but objectively reasonable efforts to obtain and conserve supplies of FFRs and fit testing supplies as outlined in the memoranda.  
 
Non-compliance still violates the standard but the temporary enforcement guidance provides CSHOs discretion on a case-by-case basis. Each temporary enforcement guidance memorandum has specific criteria that must be followed. For more information including some of the criteria (e.g. having a Respiratory Protection Program) can be found in the new two-page resource​. ​