The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued respiratory protection guidance focused on protecting workers in nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities (LTCFs) from occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus. The action marks the Department’s latest step to ensure the availability of respirators and follows President Donald J. Trump’s Memorandum on Making General Use Respirators Available.
Source control measures are recommended for everyone in healthcare facilities, including LTCFs, even if the wearer does not have symptoms of the coronavirus. The guidance describes various source control measures, including cloth face coverings, facemasks, and FDA-cleared or authorized surgical masks. Healthcare providers should wear source control products/devices at all times while inside a LTCF, including in breakrooms or other spaces where they might encounter other people.
Healthcare providers who are in close contact with a LTCF resident with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection must use a NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator or equivalent or higher-level respirator, as required by OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard. Employers should reassess their engineering and administrative controls, such as ventilation and practices for physical distancing, hand hygiene, and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces, to identify changes that could avoid over-reliance on respirators and other personal protective equipment. In light of the essential need for adequate supplies of respirators during the coronavirus pandemic, OSHA has temporarily allowed for some enforcement flexibility regarding respirators.