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Federal Report Offers Guidance on PPE, Respiratory Protection


By Dan Hounsell IAQ
respirator

The many lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to play out across the country. The latest fallout from two-plus years of efforts to protect people from the highly contagious illness and stop its spread involves the role of respiratory protection, which most often played out in efforts in institutional and commercial facilities to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to occupants and visitors. 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently published a consensus study report that provides recommendations for the oversight and guidance of respiratory protection in the United States. 

Federal agencies commissioned the report in response to the evolving need for available and appropriate respiratory protection for workers not already within a workplace respiratory protection program, as well as for the public who could be exposed to inhalation hazards such as viruses, wildfire smoke, and mold as a part of daily life. 

The purpose of the report’s proposed framework is to provide information for the effective oversight of the development, approval, and use of respiratory protection. The report includes considerations for the challenges of implementing effective respiratory protection on such a large scale, such as identifying the appropriate respiratory protection for a hazard, as well as product design and availability. The report identifies seven core functions for both expanded occupational use and personal use of respiratory protection: 

  • developing and approving respiratory protective devices 

  • ensuring adequate coordination and authorities to protect the target community from inhalation hazards 

  • assessing hazards and determining the needs for respiratory protection 

  • determining the necessary respiratory protective devices 

  • ensuring availability and access pathways for respiratory protective devices 

  • engaging, informing, and ensuring access for the target community 

  • incorporating lifecycle learning and continuous improvement.

Dan Hounsell is senior editor, facility group. 

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