Washington — In an effort to better protect workers in the health care and public safety sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, NIOSH is approving a new class of powered air-purifying respirators, under an interim final rule published by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The new class of PAPRs, known as PAPR100, “may be better suited to the needs of workers” in these sectors to protect against infection of COVID-19, according to an April 9 NIOSH press release.
Published in the April 14 Federal Register, the rule adds “parallel performance standards” to current regulatory requirements for PAPRs.
It also consolidates technical standards for powered and non-powered air-purifying particulate respirators into one place: 42 CFR, Part 84, Subpart K.
The rule removes standards for “obsolete” respirators intended for dust, fume and mist; pesticide; and paint spray. It also “aligns particulate filter testing” for the new class of PAPRs with current requirements for non-powered particulate respirators.
The release notes that PAPRs are often used in high-hazard operations in health care because they can filter aerosol-transmissible viruses that cause diseases such as COVID-19, as well as bloodborne pathogens and chemicals.
“Current shortages of non-powered particulate respirators underscore the need for approval of PAPRs more suitable for use by the health care workers and first responders dealing with the disease,” NIOSH states.
In addition to the new efficiency tests for PAPR100-N and PAPR100-P filters, the interim rule contains:
- A low-flow warning requirement for the new PAPR100 class respirators only;
- Two options to assess fit: isoamyl acetate (existing and unchanged) or generated aerosol (new) for both PAPR classes HE and PAPR100;
- A total noise level requirement for both classes HE and PAPR100;
- A breath response type, airflow resistance test for PAPR classes HE and PAPR100; and
- A communication performance test for PAPR100.
NIOSH states that PAPR100 class respirators are projected to be better suited to the needs of workers in the healthcare and public safety sectors.
NIOSH expects that the addition of PAPR100 devices to the marketplace will help to relieve the current high demand for additional particulate respirators designed specifically for healthcare settings.