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NIOSH clarifies its definition of respirator sealing surfaces, facial stubble

Notice supersedes August 2018, October 2006 positions

Posted December 29, 2018

In a recent revised notice, NIOSH clarified its definition of respirator sealing surfaces, including the primary seal, and facial stubble. NIOSH says the interpretation applies to all primary seals of tight-fitting full and half-facepiece respirators, as well as tight-fitting respirator designs that rely on a neck dam seal.

According to NIOSH, facial hair that lies along the sealing area of the respirator, such as beards, sideburns, moustaches, or stubble, should not be permitted on employees who are required to wear respirators that rely on tight facepiece fit. The revised notice clarifies that stubble means “more than one day or 24 hours of growth.” The language in an August 2018 notice referred to “a few days’ growth.”

The Agency also clarifies its definition of primary seal and primary sealing surface to mean “that part of the respirator that touch the wearer’s facial areas (near the nose and mouth for half-mask respirators and including around the eyes for full-facepiece respirators) that provide a gas or dust-tight seal in order to protect the user from the outside contaminant(s).”

NIOSH says the revised notice supersedes its October 2, 2006, letter to manufacturers and its August 2018 notice.

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