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As we continue to work through the pandemic, OSHA recognizes the importance of keeping a clean workplace. In that, it’s important you understand your employers responsibility, as well as brush-up on your understanding of protective equipment.

Surgical masks vs. respirators

Surgical masks

  • Used to protect you against splashes and sprays containing infectious agents.
  • Placed on sick individuals to prevent respiratory infections that spread by large droplets; worn by surgeons to avoid contaminating surgical sites.
  • May not protect against airborne-transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal.
  • Can be used by almost anyone, regardless of training.
  • Should be properly disposed of after use.

Respirators (e.g., filtering facepiece)

  • Used to prevent you from inhaling small particles, including airborne-transmissible infectious agents.
  • To be effective, should have the proper filter material (e.g., N95 or better), be NIOSH-certified, and must fit tightly to prevent air leaks.
  • For use, requires proper training, fit testing, availability of appropriate medical evaluations and monitoring, cleaning and oversight by a knowledgeable staff member.
  • Your employer must establish a respiratory protection program that is compliant with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134

Your employer’s responsibility

Your employer should ensure that you understand:

  • Differences between seasonal epidemics and worldwide pandemic disease outbreaks;
  • Which job activities may put you at risk for exposure to sources of infection;
  • What options may be available for working remotely, or utilizing an employer’s flexible leave policy when you are sick;
  • Social distancing strategies, including avoiding close physical contact (e.g., shaking hands) and large gatherings of people;
  • Good hygiene and appropriate disinfection procedures;
  • What personal protective equipment (PPE) is available, and how to wear, use, clean and store it properly;
  • What medical services (e.g., vaccination, post-exposure medication) may be available to you; and
  • How supervisors will provide updated pandemic-related communications, and where to direct your questions.

HANDOUT: Heat Stress