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Date:  June 2, 1995
Contact: NIOSH (202) 401-0721 
           Julie Tisdale
           Lore Jackson

Changes in Occupational Safety Regs
Will Permit Better Respirators to Protect
Against Dust and Disease

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health today updated its respirator testing and certification requirements to permit approval of better respirators for miners and other workers, including hospital employees caring for patients with highly infectious tuberculosis.

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala said, "The health care industry in particular has anxiously awaited this regulation, which will advance the protection of doctors and nurses who treat patients with infectious diseases while interfering less with patient care. Other industries and workers will also benefit from the improved respirators that can be certified under these updated regulations."

The new NIOSH standards will permit a new generation of respirator filters with less leakage, more efficiency and easier breathing -- some at lower cost. NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the U.S. Public Health Service, HHS.

The standards were made public today and will be published June 8 in the Federal Register. They were proposed on May 24, 1994, and a public meeting soliciting comments on the regulations took place in June 1994. The final version incorporates most of more than 300 comments from safety professionals, respirator manufacturers, representatives of industrial and health-care facilities, and affected workers.

The changes replace 60-year-old procedures with contemporary technology for air purifying respirators. With this rule, NIOSH assumes sole responsibility for testing and certifying most respirators and establishes "sunset" dates after which filters certified under the old regulation may no longer be manufactured or distributed as NIOSH certified.

Although the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration has had a joint role in certifying all respirators, from now on MSHA will focus on respirators used in mine emergencies.

The director of the Public Health Service, Assistant Secretary for Health Philip R. Lee, M.D., said, "The health care industry will have a broader, more economical and practical range of respirators to choose from as a result of these changes."

NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., said, "This new rule will provide a critical and long overdue upgrading of our testing and certification process. In developing the rule, we have worked closely with those affected by it -- industry and employee representatives alike -- to ensure the broadest approach to protecting the millions of Americans who must rely on respirators as the last defense against toxic injury."

These new procedures replace inadequate testing methods for evaluating air purifying respirators. The new performance-based testing methods will enable the certification of respirators based on their ability to filter out toxic substances.

Hospital workers, miners, fire fighters and painters are among the seven to 10 million American workers who rely on NIOSH-certified respirators for protection against workplace hazards. Some respirators are worn in toxic and potentially lethal environments where any lapse in effectiveness can result in serious injury or death.

A technical summary and the full text of the regulation can be downloaded from the NIOSH World Wide Web page (www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html) or obtained by calling the NIOSH toll-free information number 1-800-35-NIOSH (select option 5).

The final rule is also posted on the electronic bulletin boards of the Government Printing Office and of the Department of Labor; the telephone numbers are (202) 512-1387 and (202) 219-4784, respectively.