Parker, the namesake of Parker Safety Group, says: the short answer is YES. A dust mask is a respirator which means it requires Respirator Protection Training and more… I wrote this article a few years ago. Perhaps it’s time to revise it.

FIRST – let’s be clear. Dust masks are filtering face pieces and absolutely require medical evaluations, training and fit testing. To read the actual regulation, follow this link (bring coffee!) Respiratory Regulation. However, these are not normal times and OSHA has released several enforcement memos to help combat the current emergency, the PPE shortages as well as the ability to get fit tested at the current moment.

Basically, the enforcement guidelines relax the standards around annual fit testing, medical assessments, and source of manufacturers. One of our safety industry magazines SAFETY + HEALTH, has done a great job with several articles. Here is a list of links to them. (I would attach the OSHA actual memorandums, but trust me it’s better to read S+H’s articles as they are as accurate).

These temporary guidelines will not remain once the emergency state of our nation is lifted. Unfortunately, they did not address those workers getting their INITIAL fit testing – only those receiving their annual “renewal” fit testing. Due to the vagueness, one must resort to OSHA’s memo regarding enforcement guidelines: “Did the employer exercise best judgement and can demonstrate you made good-faith efforts to comply with the 1910.134 regulation?”

If the type of work your firm provides would require the use of respiratory protection, I would advise you to plan ahead as the complete process itself can take some time. Due to your production schedules and other factors that often enter in – this is not a “let’s get this done today” type of item. You can look into our services here: Employee Respirator Protection Training.

Isn’t some protection better than none? Normally, I explain that tight fitting respirators are simple yet can cause harm if not donned properly. I would add that for you to be protected from exposures, you really have to understand much more.

BUT, wearing a face mask is not about protecting you from other exposures. They are meant to keep what you are expelling to yourself, NOT from what is around you. N95 respirators, even if donned correctly, are not the proper level of filter to protect you from particulates 100% of time. Better than nothing – perhaps, but not enough.

Just remember, when we wear protection, we tend to feel we are 100% safe and act with less regard to exposures than if we did not have this on to begin with. I learned this playing hockey. When I played without a helmet, I was aware of items such as flying pucks and sticks. When I eventually put on a helmet and face mask, I felt invincible and put my head in harm’s way, thus my neck injury.

We are working on developing systems for our clients to return to their jobsites –expanding on Sub-part D in the construction regulations and other issues that will create methods to protect ourselves, our families and the families of our clients. We are following the CDC and OSHA daily, and I promise you our systems will be based on medical science and verifiable data – not tweets or manipulated press releases.

I do believe we will be back to work soon. The question is will we recognize the new job site and how they must change to be safe for us? Or will it take another surge before us old timers are ready and willing to change?

Buckle up – the ride is about to get bumpy.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Alive.