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Hastings Air Twitter Q&A - Respirator Use & Care
The COVID-19 outbreak in recent weeks brought with it an unprecedented lack of information surrounding personal protection and equipment use. In response, our team worked with an industrial hygienist, Kay Rowntree, CIH, Industrial Hygiene Sciences, to answer questions from our customers about respirators. Our team at Hastings Air Energy Control is committed to educating our customers about topics related to air cleaning and filtration.
Q1: Am I correct when I tell friends and family to purchase a P-100 respirator when they cannot find any N-95s? I believe they are even more effective than an N 95. Am I correct?
A1: Yes. A P100 or N100 would be acceptable. They are not necessarily more effective as a proper fit is far more important than filtration efficiency. If disposable respirators are not available, elastomeric facepiece styles (rubber/plastic masks) can be used as long as they have N95 or better filters.
Q2: How long do the replacement filters last? When is it time to replace with new filters?
A2: OSHA says to replace filters when breathing through them becomes difficult; likely not to be an issue with infectious agents. The overriding issue is whether the respirator has become contaminated. Check out CDC’s “Recommended Guidance for Extended Use and Limited Reuse of N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators in Healthcare Settings” for more details on extended use and respirator storage and care.
Q3: What is the best way to clean and decontaminate respirators?
A3: It depends on the respirator. Filtering facepiece (disposable) styles cannot be decontaminated. Elastomeric facepiece styles (rubber/plastic masks) can be decontaminated.
The “3M Novel Coronavirus Outbreak” webpage has an article on recommended decontamination practices from the CDC. You can read the article here.
3M recommends this: “If filtering facepiece respirators or surgical respirators are used during care for patients with a suspected or confirmed case of an infectious disease, the respirators should be carefully removed touching only the straps and not the surface of the facepiece portion, and then appropriately discarded immediately after use, according to applicable waste disposal practices”
Wearing a face shield if there is a risk of contamination would help protect the respirator.
You can read more here.
Q4: How should respirators be stored after cleaning them?
A4: 3M notes that studies have shown that microorganisms can survive in respirator filters. High humidity conditions were the most favorable for survival. 3M indicates storing filtering facepiece respirators in a resealable bag may be inappropriate. For elastomeric styles, they recommend air drying the facepiece in a non-contaminated area following disinfection. This is also the CDC recommendation.
Q5: What kind of respirator can be used for protecting against COVID-19?
A5: Acceptable respirators are Filtering facepiece, particulate N95, elastomeric P100 or N100, PAPR with particulate filters, or air-supplied respirator.
Q6: If an employee wants to bring their own respirator to work, what should I do?
A6: If it’s a true filtering facepiece respirator and you allow the employee to wear it, you have to share Appx. D of the OSHA respirator standard with the employee. If they want to wear a surgical mask, no regulatory actions are required. However, it is up to the employer whether or not to allow the use of these masks.
Q7: Are surgical masks respirators?
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