OSHA Respiratory Protection Requirements FOr Dentists

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employer’s to protect the respiratory health of employees who work in potentially hazardous environments. This is outlined in 29CFR1910.134.

Both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) have provided guidelines for dentists to return to work.  In this guidance, there is mention of the use of N95 and equivalent respirators, as well as OSHA’s relaxation of annual fit-testing requirements (ADA Return To Work Toolkit Page 20, AGD Return To Work Guidance Page 5).  What is not explicitly stated is that you still need to provide for initial fit testing. Click here to see OSHA’s official guidance memorandum. Note the fourth bullet point.

N95 and similar respirators are designed to be tight-fitting.  This means that they need to seal tightly around your face in order to be effective.  The cloth filter that you breathe through is designed to block 95% of particulates that are 3 micrometers or less in diameter.  If there is a gap in the seal between the mask and your skin that is greater than 3 micrometers, air and larger particulates will enter your respiratory tract– rendering the respirator essentially useless. Remember, COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease.   A proper fit test will be able to identify gaps in the mask seal, allowing you to know that a particular style mask will not protect you.  Since everyone’s face has a slightly different shape, and every mask model is slightly different, you must be fit tested on every brand / model respirator you will be wearing.  

It should also be noted that the OSHA statement cited requires that as “a good faith effort”, employers should choose respirators that meet quality guidelines set by the National Institute Of Safety and Health (NIOSH).  As you may know, many KN95 masks from China failed NIOSH testing after they were distributed to end users.

Keep in mind that OSHA suspended the rule for annual fit testing (not initial fit-testing) during a global pandemic, probably because the N95 supply in our country was, and remains, scarce.  Relaxing the fit-test rule led health care providers to wear whatever N95 mask they could get possession of, possibly without a fit-test.  Many healthcare workers in our area fell ill to the COVID-19 virus.  Some died.

The ADA and AGD also did not mention the other OSHA rules that were not suspended.  Namely, the fact that employers need to have in place a written respiratory protection program, employees need to be medically cleared by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional to wear a respirator, and the need to be properly trained on how to don and doff these devices as well as the risks wearers are being exposed to. 

Have Dummy Will Travel provides the necessary training, written respiratory protection plan, professional management of that plan (including expert consultation with your employees), and qualitative fit-testing for any tight fitting respirator you plan to use. 

Understanding the scarcity of proper protective equipment, and knowing that the respirators you use today are different than the ones you will get in your next order, Have Dummy Will Travel has established a wide-open pipeline of high quality, comfortable, and reusable N95 respirators with disposable filters, at a cost far below conventional N95/KN95s.

Click here now to contact us and learn more about how Have Dummy Will Travel will help protect you and your team. We are committed to helping you return to work quickly, safely, and economically.

The Emergency Experts