Occupational Safety and Health efforts are not only valuable in the workplace, but can be applied to non-occupational situations as well. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently posted an article that covers the use of respiratory protection in non-occupational settings.

One main concern with any respirator use is whether or not the devices are being worn properly.

In a work setting employers are required to provide training on best practices, use NIOSH approved devices, and be able to demonstrate a filtration efficiency of 95% or more. Not surprisingly, those rules do not apply when it comes to at home or public respirator use.

There are a few obstacles when it comes to public use of respirators. First, most people do not have access to formal training or the ability to go through fit testing or a medical evaluation. The general public is also not required to use a NIOSH approved respirator and can decide to use devices ranging from bandanas to counterfeit devices as a replacement for the NIOSH approved devices that are the standard for workplace use.

Studies have shown that without training, fit testing, or using a NIOSH-approved respirator, public respirator use is much less effective at protecting people than workplace use.

So, what steps can be made to make public respirator use more effective?

  • use a NIOSH or FDA approved N95 FFR (check your equipment here)
  • order from a reputable vendor
  • if you have been fitted at work, use the same model at home
  • follow all manufacturer instructions each time you use a device at home
  • complete a seal check with each use (watch video)
  • if you have a medical condition, speak with a physician before use
  • Stay hydrated and take frequent breaks from the work you are performing
  • Avoid contact with the contaminated surface of the respirator
  • Dispose of your respirator properly so others do not come in contact with it

To read more about respirator protection for the public, read NIOSH’s full article here.