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Difference Between Cloth Masks, Surgical Masks, and Respirators

Difference Between Cloth Masks, Surgical Masks, and Respirators

10/13/2020 1:24:28 PM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 41

This blog post explains the difference between cloth face masks, surgical masks, and respirators, emphasizing employer responsibilities based on OSHA’s standards.

Why is Protecting Employees from COVID-19 Important?

The first reason is keeping your employees safe from illness and death. But if that wasn’t reason enough, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) legally requires employers to ensure their workplaces are free from hazards. Employees are entitled to a safe workplace. 

COVID-19 is a new workplace hazard. This means OSHA can issue citations and fines if employers are not protecting their workers from the virus. Two recent OSHA citations for COVID-19 violations include the Christus Shreveport-Bossier Health System and the New Jersey Hospital.

OSHA Announces $484,069 Total in Coronavirus Violations

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, OSHA has cited 37 establishments for violations. The proposed penalties total to $484,069. The violations that OSHA has cited employers for include failure to: 

Click here for a full list of what standards were cited for each establishment and the inspection number.

Differentiating Masks versus Respiratory Protection

Our Compliance Advisers have seen many dental practices struggling to implement respiratory protection standards. That’s because before COVID-19, dentists didn’t need respirators. They didn’t need respiratory protection programs. 

But many dental employers are being fined for failing to implement Respiratory Protection Programs. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between cloth face masks, surgical masks, and respirators. You only need the respiratory protection program if your employees wear respirators.


Difference Between Cloth Masks, Surgical Masks, and Respirators
Cloth Face Masks

Considered PPE? No. This means employers don’t have to provide them to employees.

Considered Respiratory Protection? No. Not a substitute for respirators.

Protection to the Wearer? Not believed to protect the wearer, but cloth masks trap droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. Asking all employees to wear cloth masks can help reduce the spread of the virus.

Who can wear? Almost anyone, except workers who have trouble breathing, or are unable to put on and remove the mask by themselves.

Disposable? Since they’re made of cloth, you can reuse them by washing them with your laundry.


Difference Between Cloth Masks, Surgical Masks, and Respirators
Surgical Masks

Considered PPE? Yes. If the employees need them, employers are required to provide them at no cost to the employees. Employers also need to provide PPE training.

Considered Respiratory Protection? No. Not a substitute for respirators.

Protection to the Wearer? Protects the wearer from splashes, sprays, and droplets containing potentially infectious materials. But they do not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.

Who can wear? Almost anyone, except workers who have trouble breathing, or are unable to put on and remove the mask by themselves.

Disposable? Should be properly disposed of after use. Change after each patient and when wet. 


Difference Between Cloth Masks, Surgical Masks, and Respirators
Respirators

Note: N95 and KN95 “masks” are classified as respirators. OSHA provides more information about respirator types here. For a list of NIOSH-approved respirators, another requirement of the respiratory protection program, click here.

Considered PPE? Yes. If the employees need them, employers are required to provide them at no cost to the employees. Employers also need to train employees how to use respirators.

Considered Respiratory Protection? Yes. You need a complete Respiratory Protection Program if any of your employees use respirators.

Protection to the Wearer? Protects the wearer from inhaling small particles, including airborne transmissible or aerosolized infectious agents. This includes COVID-19.

Who can wear? Not every employee can wear. Employers need to complete medical evaluations for every employee that will wear a respirator. Visit our blog to learn more about the employees that cannot wear respirators, and the physiological stress that respirators cause.

Disposable? Should be properly disposed of after use. However, due to a global shortage of respirators, OSHA has interim guidance on the extended use and reuse of respirators.

Are your Employees Wearing Respirators? 

If any of your employees wear respirators, whether by choice or by mandate, you need a respiratory protection program. We’ve been providing these mandatory OSHA programs to our industrial clients for years. By leveraging our knowledge in this area, we’ve created the most easy-to-use, dental and medical-specific version of this mandatory Written Respiratory Program.

This feature is only available to Dental Platinum+ clients, Dental Essentials clients, and Complete Medical Compliance clients. This plan is very simple to administer. Check out our blog to learn more. 

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