Grab your keys, wallet, and face mask. With the CDC’s recent recommendation, face masks are part of people’s daily essentials when heading to public areas where they will be around others, especially when social distancing cannot be obtained. With increased demand and limited supply, people are turning to industrial personal protective equipment (PPE) that they’ve never used before, specifically the N95 disposable respirator. To a greater degree than most earloop style masks, respirators help protect the wearer as well as others from environmental contamination. When worn properly, these disposable respirators provide a full facepiece to face seal, have two straps that fit around the neck and back of the head to secure the respirator in place, and, importantly, have been tested and certified by the National Institute for Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the CDC.
As usage increases, general consumers, healthcare clinicians, and emergency responders need to know how to properly wear this “new-to-them” industrial PPE. The N95 molded cup disposable respirator, when worn properly, offers protection that meets NIOSH standards, but if you’re not careful in the process of putting on the respirator, you could break a strap or damage the respirator. It is important to note that all N95s are not created equal and each has specific instructions for proper wear.
N95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particles in the air. Particle sizes vary tremendously and N95 respirators are tested by NIOSH to the most penetrating size particle, which is 0.075 microns, +.02. Honeywell’s DC301N95 respirator has not been tested or certified against any pathogens or virus such as COVID-19. When properly fitted and worn, minimal leakage occurs around the edges of the respirator when the user inhales. When donning the Honeywell DC301N95 molded cup disposable respirator, you should follow these steps:
- First, hold the respirator in the palm of your hand with straps facing towards the floor
- Next, hold the respirator under the chin with the nosepiece facing outwards
- Then pull the lower head strap around the neck below the ears and while holding the respirator in against the face with one hand, place the upper strap above the ears around the crown of the head
- Place your hands on each side of the respirator and move slightly right, left, up and down, to adjust the position of the respirator and achieve the most optimal fit on the face
- Mold the nose clip over your cheeks and bridge of the nose to obtain a tight seal
- Perform a user seal check to ensure a good fit:
- Place both hands over the respirator – do not disturb the position of the respirator.
- Exhale sharply. A positive pressure should be felt inside the respirator.
- If you detect air leaking in readjust the respirator by:
- applying additional pressure on the nose clip to achieve a secure seal on the nose;
- adjusting the position of the respirator on your face; and/or
- adjusting the position of the head straps.
- To remove the N95, you should hold the respirator with his or her dominant hand to maintain its position on the face. Then pull the bottom strap over the head and while still holding the respirator in one hand, lift and remove the mask.
While this information doesn’t address all N95 respirators, the hope is that it will help most people understand some basic principles regarding how to properly wear the N95 molded cup disposable respirator.
Not all respirator brands and models are donned (put on) the same way. That is why it is important that you always consult the manufacturer’s user instructions before donning (putting on) a new brand or model of respirator. The government has many resources to help determine the best respirator for your use and how to use it properly.
This OSHA webpage contains links to a variety of training videos related to respiratory protection. Topics include fit testing, medical evaluations, respiratory protection in general industry, respirator types, voluntary use of respirators, respiratory protection in construction, training requirements, respiratory protection for healthcare workers, the differences between respirators and surgical masks, donning & doffing, counterfeit respirators, maintenance and care, and the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard (1910.134).