Masks Respirators

Difference Between Masks and Respirators

Difference Between Masks and Respirators

 

by Katie Palmer        10/13/2020

Masks Respirators

This blog post explains the difference between cloth face masks, surgical masks, and respirators, emphasizing employer responsibilities based on OSHA’s standards.

Why is Protecting Employees from COVID-19 Important?

The first reason is keeping your employees safe from illness and death. But if that wasn’t reason enough, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) legally requires employers to ensure their workplaces are free from hazards. Employees are entitled to a safe workplace. 

COVID-19 is a new workplace hazard. This means OSHA can issue citations and fines if employers are not protecting their workers from the virus. Two recent OSHA citations for COVID-19 violations include the Christus Shreveport-Bossier Health System and the New Jersey Hospital.

OSHA Announces $3,301,932 Total in Proposed Coronavirus Violations

A recent update as of 12/11/2020: According to OSHA, since the start of the pandemic, they have “issued citations arising from 244 inspections for violations relating to coronavirus, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $3,301,932.” Check out our blog post to learn more about COVID-19 OSHA inspections.

The violations that OSHA has cited employers for include failure to: 

Differentiating Masks versus Respirators

Our Compliance Advisers have seen many dental practices struggling to implement respiratory protection standards. That’s because before COVID-19, dentists didn’t need respirators. They didn’t need respiratory protection programs. 

But many dental employers are being fined for failing to implement Respiratory Protection Programs. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between cloth face masks, surgical masks, and respirators. You only need the Respiratory Protection Program if your employees wear respirators.

Cloth Face Masks

Considered PPE? No. This means employers don’t have to provide them to employees. Employers also don’t have to provide training.

Considered Respiratory Protection? No. Not a substitute for respirators.

Protection to the Wearer? Experts previously believed that cloth masks provided no protection to the wearer. However, the CDC released a scientific brief that states cloth and surgical masks protect the wearer more than previously thought. They’re not as protective as respirators, though.

Who can wear? Almost anyone, except workers who have trouble breathing, or are unable to put on and remove the mask by themselves.

Disposable? Since they’re made of cloth, you can reuse them by washing them with your laundry.

Surgical Masks

Considered PPE? Yes. If the employees need them, employers are required to provide them at no cost to the employees. Employers also need to provide PPE training.

Considered Respiratory Protection? No. Not a substitute for respirators.

Protection to the Wearer? The CDC released a scientific brief that states surgical masks protect the wearer from COVID-19. Not as much as respirators, though.

Who can wear? Almost anyone, except workers who have trouble breathing, or are unable to put on and remove the mask by themselves.

Disposable? Should be properly disposed of after use. Change after each patient and when wet. 

Respirators

Note: N95 and KN95 “masks” are classified as respirators. OSHA provides more information about respirator types

Considered PPE? Yes. If the employees need them, employers are required to provide them at no cost to the employees. Employers also need to train employees how to use respirators.

Considered Respiratory Protection? Yes. You need a complete Respiratory Protection Program if any of your employees use respirators.

Protection to the Wearer? Protects the wearer from inhaling small particles, including airborne transmissible or aerosolized infectious agents. This includes COVID-19.

Who can wear? Not every employee can wear. Employers need to complete medical evaluations for every employee that will wear a respirator. Visit our blog to learn more about the employees that cannot wear respirators, and the physiological stress that respirators cause.

Disposable? Should be properly disposed of after use. However, there is a global shortage on respirators. Check out our blog post for OSHA guidance on the respirator shortage

Are your Employees Wearing Respirators? 

If any of your employees wear respirators, whether by choice or by mandate, you need a respiratory protection program. We’ve been providing these mandatory OSHA programs to our industrial clients for years. By leveraging our knowledge in this area, we’ve created the most easy-to-use, dental and medical-specific version of this mandatory Written Respiratory Protection Program.

This feature is only available to Dental Platinum+ clients, Dental Essentials clients, and Complete Medical Compliance clients. This plan is very simple to administer

Request a demonstration if you have none of the above plans and still want respiratory protection.

More Respiratory Protection Program Resources

Check out this video with Smart Training’s Vice President of Healthcare, Lee Slaton:

If you want to hear more from Lee about Respiratory Protection Programs, check out our webinar.

Smart Training
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