Recently I have received numerous emails and phone calls regarding respiratory air-filtering masks rated for arc flash. I’m sure everyone reading this, no matter what country you’re in, is aware why that’s the case: the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are a regular reader, you know it is my methodology to address topics by first citing the related safety standards in effect and then discussing the issue from a practical perspective typically related to the utility industry. This time is no different – for the most part.
Initially, the use of masks during the pandemic was limited as effective respiratory protection and still is for the public per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As far as OSHA was concerned regarding workplaces, the only approved mask was the NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR). The N95 rating means that the mask meets the criteria for effective filtering of airborne particulates and moisture at 95%. The rating system also was established by NIOSH. It is important to understand that the N95 rating is based on the assumption that the masks are utilized by trained users meeting the OSHA respiratory protection worker training and fit-testing standard, which also can require a medical evaluation of the user.