Proposed Guidance on Workplace Stockpiling of Respirators and Facemasks for Pandemic Influenza

“In the event of an influenza pandemic, employers will play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as in limiting the impact on the economy and society. Employers will likely experience employee absences, changes in patterns of commerce and interrupted supply and delivery schedules. To further preparedness efforts, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposes to publish this information on stockpiling respirators and facemasks in occupational settings as an appendix to the DOL and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly issued Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (February 2007). This proposed guidance is designed to encourage employers in the private and public sectors to purchase and stockpile facemasks and respirators in advance of an influenza pandemic, because manufacturing capacity at the time of an outbreak would not meet the expected demand for respiratory protection devices during the pandemic. Through advanced planning and stockpiling, employers will be able to better protect their employees as well as lessen the impact of a pandemic on their business, society, and the economy.

As is explained in more detail in this guidance, employers should consider stockpiling facemasks and respirators. More specifically, it is recommended that employees at very-high risk and high risk of exposure to pandemic influenza use respirators, while employees at medium risk of exposure use facemasks. Neither facemasks nor respirators are recommended for employees at lower risk of exposure to pandemic influenza.” – OSHA

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