Yes, workers can wear any of the types of particulate respirators for protection against SARS—if they are NIOSH-approved and if they have been properly fit-tested and maintained. All of the NIOSH-approved particulate respirators protect workers against SARS as effectively as the N-95 respirators.
A respirator will work only if it is used correctly. Thus the key elements for respiratory protection are fit-testing and training of each worker in the use, maintenance, and care of the respirator. NIOSH considers each of the nine types of disposable particulate respirators to have similar fit characteristics. Therefore, when a worker is caring for or transporting SARS patients, having a NIOSH-approved respirator that fits well is much more important than whether the respirator is an N-95 or one of the other eight types of disposable particulate respirators.
In health care settings, the use of respirators by workers is regulated under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for respiratory protection. The OSHA standard sets requirements for the fit-testing of respirators to ensure a proper seal between the respirator’s sealing surface and the wearer’s face. The OSHA standard also contains requirements for determining that workers can use respirators safely, for training and educating employees in the proper use of respirators, and for maintaining respirators properly. NOTE: Fit-testing and the other OSHA-required procedures are absolutely essential to assure that the respirator will provide the wearer with required protection. View detailed information on respiratory programs, including fit test procedures.