EPA Extends Respiratory Fit Test Amendment
Published on May 21, 2021 by Nate Bortz
Earlier this month, the EPA extended their “annual fit test delay” amendment to September 30, 2021. If you don’t have time to sift through and try to understand the “government-ese” language in the EPA’s official memo, read on for a simplified summary.
On June 1, 2020, the EPA issued a statement that gave agricultural employers and pesticide handlers guidance regarding pandemic-related respiratory protection shortages and reduced capability to complete respirator fit testing.
Part of that statement included an “annual fit test delay” amendment that originally expired in 2020. But now, due to the continued challenges of COVID-19, the EPA extended the amendment to September 30, 2021. However, the remainder of the June 2020 memorandum remains valid and unrevised.
Neither the options in the June 2020 memorandum nor the recent amendment provide a waiver of regulations or label requirements.
For example, fit testing requirements, including the initial fit testing of a respirator, medical evaluations, and respirator training cannot be delayed or skipped.
Handler employers and handlers are expected to comply with all applicable pesticide product label and Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) requirements, and only consider the options presented in the June 2020 memorandum as a last resort.
Fit Test Delay Amendment Requirements
Compliant options include:
- Using alternative NIOSH-approved respirators offering equivalent or greater respiratory protection than those required on the pesticide label
- Hiring commercial applicator services with enough respirators and respiratory protection capabilities
- Opting to use agricultural pesticide products that do not require respirators
- Delaying pesticide applications until another compliant option is available
If the above options are are no longer possible, the EPA’s guidance provides additional options with strict terms, conditions, and requirements to minimize potential incremental risks to workers including the:
- Reuse and extended use of disposable N95 filter facepiece respirator
- Use of “expired” N95 respirators – (The expired N95 FFRs14 must have been previously NIOSH-certified. Click here for more details.)
- Use of respirators certified in certain other countries or jurisdictions meeting protective conditions outlined
- Delay the annual respirator “fit test.” This option expires September 30, 2021.
If you have any questions regarding this updated amendment, contact the EPA’s enforcement division. And to make sure you or your employer are following every other existing WPS requirement, we offer company-wide WPS training here!