The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new standard requiring the use of N95 respirators/PAPRs/CAPRs when caring for any COVID-19 patient. WashU Med and BJC are working through the new standard and updating the PPE policy. The new policy, effective Aug. 18, will follow OSHA’s updated standard, requiring the use of N95 respirators/PAPRs while caring for patients known or suspected to have COVID-19. This change was made only in response to OSHA requirements and does not reflect any change in risk to our employees who are caring for COVID-19 patients.
N95 respirators will continue to be worn across multiple patients and discarded only when removed for meals/breaks or if soiled, moist or wet.
These PPE changes may impact other COVID-19-related protocols. Further updates and details will be coming.
In addition to the regulation change regarding PPE, OSHA has published the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which establishes federal requirements to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 in health-care settings, with some exceptions, where employees provide health care or support services.
BJC and WashU Med have been following guidelines from OSHA and the CDC throughout the pandemic. Our previous PPE guidelines have been shown to be effective in keeping our team members safe; cases where staff have tested positive from COVID-19 have not resulted from patient interaction but from community spread and not adhering to safety measures. The enhanced respiratory protection requirements outlined in the ETS provide additional protection from current and future COVID-19 variants for employees providing direct patient care.