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OSHA seeks commentson respirator/facemask

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is asking for comments on a proposal for stockpiling respirators and facemasks for use in the event of pandemic influenza, according to information published in the Federal Register May 9.

The comment period follows earlier government plans to prepare for and respond to a flu pandemic, as well as OSHA's decision to issue guidance on respirator and facemask stockpiling in occupational settings. The guidelines (Docket No. OSHA-2008-0005) are designed to help private sector and government employers in making purchasing and stockpiling decisions to better protect their employees.

Recommendations include the use of personal protective equipment (respirators and facemasks) at each risk level. OSHA recommends that employees at very high risk and high risk of exposure to pandemic influenza use respirators, while workers at medium risk of exposure use facemasks. Neither facemasks nor respirators are recommended for employees at lower risk of exposure to the disease.

The guidelines supplement existing guidance by informing employers about various types of respirators, their advantages, disadvantages, and approximate costs. In addition, when employers determine that they have employees who are at medium or higher exposure risk, the information provides them with methodology to determine how many respirators and/or facemasks they would have to stockpile based upon the assumption that an influenza pandemic is expected to come in two waves, each lasting up to 12 weeks, extending over an 18-month period.

Comments must be submitted by July 8, 2008.

The request for comments can be seen online in the Federal Register.

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