Exploring NIOSH Standards
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in short, the NIOSH, is a federal agency of the United States government responsible for the research, commendations, and standards for prevention work-related illness and injury.
The NIOSH is a part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it has become one of the major players in establishing the standards and regulations for safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article will explore the different standards for face mask and respirator usage recommended by NIOSH, as well as how they apply to each and every one of us.
Escape Respirator Standards for the General Working Population Against Biological, Chemical, Radiological, and Nuclear Agents
Several agencies are investing their efforts into developing appropriate standards and procedures for every respirator class that aim to provide respiratory protection from chemical, biological, radiological, and CBRN (nuclear) agents and the dangers of their inhalation. These agencies include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the U.S. Army Soldier Biological and Chemical Command (SBCCOM), as well as the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST.)
General guidelines are that respirators protect the user in two major ways.
Respirators protect the wearer by removing potential contaminants from the inhaled air. Respirators of this category include particulate respirators (such as the N95 respirator), whose goal is to filter out potentially harmful airborne particles.
These also include standard “gas masks” that aim to filter out gases and dangerous chemicals. Other categories of respirator protection include respirators that supply clean air from another source instead of filtering incoming air.
This respirator category includes airline respirators which often use air compressed from another source. Finally, we have self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) which actually come with their own air source.
The general guidelines suggested by NIOSH is that respirators should only be used in situation in which engineering control systems are unpractical or unavailable. Engineering control systems such as the adequate ventilation of the elimination of contaminants are the preferred method for protecting workers facing potentially harmful exposure.
Same has been true during the COVID-19 pandemic. For healthcare workers and medical personnel, respirators are in most places compulsory, but only in addition to advanced ventilation systems and other measures of contamination scrubbing and disinfection.
NIOSH has issued several recommendations for respirator use. The development of these standards and recommendations often work in conjunction with various government or industry partners’ standards.
What are the NIOSH standards for respirator? What is a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator?
Respirators have become a hot topic in the world of personal protective equipment during the novel coronavirus pandemic. We’re talking about the N95/FFP2 respirators that are the first type of respirator we mentioned, filtering harmful airborne particles out of the air we breathe in, naturally protecting us from viruses and threats in the air.
Respirators are a powerful form of personal protective equipment worn over the face, covering the nose and mouth at a minimum. They are used to reducing the wearer’s risk of inhaling airborne hazardous particles (which also includes dust particles, gases, and vapors, not just infectious agents.)
Each of the categories of respirators can further be divided into (1) disposable or filtering facepiece (in which the respirator is discarded when it’s no longer effective), (2) reusable respirators, in which the facepiece is cleaned and reused, and (3) powered air purifying respirators, in which air is moved to flow through filters using electricity.
Every category of respirator is thoroughly tested by the NIOSH before it is approved for occupational use. NIOSH-approved disposable respirators are most often marked with the name of the manufacturer, the part number (either P or N), as well as the protection percentage provided by the respirator filter. For example, N-95.
The NIOSH requires that this information is printed on every facepiece, head strap, and exhalation valve cover. If a disposable respirator dos not include these markings, or does not appear on the official vendor list, it has not officially been certified by NIOSH.
That’s why NIOSH maintains a thorough database of all NIOSH-approved respirators.
Outside of the healthcare and medical personnel setting, NIOSH and the CDC have been recommended the routine use for respirators. There is yet a lot to be learned about the transmission capabilities of the novel coronavirus, though it is suggested that people who become infected do so by coming into contact with someone else who is infected and not directly by breathing in infected air.
If a person does contract the coronavirus, it may be due to touching surfaces or door knobs. That’s why agencies have recommended that the best protection from the virus in public places is to maintain social distancing and wash your hands regularly.