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Respirator Shortage Seen in Industry

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June 16, 2020—While respirators have been a shortage for healthcare workers nationwide, the automotive industry is running into this issue as well.

Recently, OSHA revised its policies for enforcing OSHA’s requirements in respect to coronavirus, making it a recordable illness. What OSHA also addressed was how operators need to take action in protecting employees with a new respiratory standard, according to Colette Bruce, owner of Team Safety, LLC. With all of the N-95 respirators headed to healthcare workers, masks weren’t being provided to shops anymore and it made a shortage for the industry. 

“Employers make a good effort to provide employees with proper respiratory protection, but now they have a shortage,” Bruce says. “Now, they’re just trying to eliminate the hazard instead.”

For technicians, Bruce says maintenance, auto repair shops, and especially body shops will run into an issue of needing protective equipment. For quick lube technicians, this equipment is important when doing brake or clutch work, even for products like degreaser.

Because of adequate supply, OSHA needed to provide employers with many options for employees working with hazardous chemicals and harmful pollutants. With the shortage of NIOSH-certified equipment, employers can now officially obtain protective equipment from other countries that are certified by OSHA, all except for China. But if those aren’t available, the employers need to provide general face masks, like the ones the general public wears. But it doesn’t necessarily provide full protection, Bruce says, but at least a small barrier for the time being.

On top of providing masks, Bruce advises shop owners to also replace certain harmful products to reduce or eliminate hazards.

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