Are you using NIOSH approved N95 respirators? - Worksite Medical
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In the occupational health and safety space, NIOSH approved N95 respirators play a pivotal role in safeguarding workers from hazardous airborne particles.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers two fact sheets on filtering face piece respirators;

Respirators approved by NIOSH are proven to be effective and will work as expected, as long as they are properly maintained, worn and used correctly, fitted properly, and replaced based on manufacturer recommendations. According to the agency, “NIOSH only approves respirators that pass its strict quality assurance and performance requirements.”

Tests utilize the worst-case scenario, using particles that are best able to make it through a filter. A proper N95 mask must block at least 95 percent of those particles in order to be considered effective.

This article examines the significance of NIOSH approval, the features of N95 respirators, and the regulatory framework surrounding their use.

Let’s break it down.


Related Article: Discover the Benefits of Onsite Respirator- Fit Testing and Audiometric Exams with Worksite Medical

Related Article: 10 Reasons To Prioritize Workplace Respiratory Protection Programs in 2024


NIOSH Approval and Significance


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health stands as the federal agency responsible for testing and approving respirators used in U.S. workplace settings. A NIOSH-approved N95 respirator is a type of filtering face piece respirator (FFR) designed to form a tight seal on the face, effectively filtering out particles like bacteria, viruses, and dust.

NIOSH approval ensures that these respirators meet stringent quality assurance and performance standards, providing workers with reliable protection against airborne hazards.


How to Tell If You’re Using NIOSH Approved Respirators


The simplest way to tell if your N95 mask is NIOSH approved is by searching for it on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List (CEL).

All approved respirators have a testing and certification approval number that is printed on the mask.

Respirators can be labeled “N95,” and still not be approved by NIOSH. These masks cannot be relied on to provide the same level of respiratory protection.

Even the slightest modifications to even approved respirators void their certification.

Niosh approved respirator safety refresher

Download your free respirator refresher safety training guide here.


Features and Functionality of N95 Respirators


N95 respirators are disposable devices that filter out harmful particles from the air as the wearer breathes through them. These respirators are crucial components of a workplace’s respiratory protection program, regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

To ensure optimal protection, N95 respirators must be properly maintained, worn correctly, fit well, and replaced as recommended by the manufacturer. NIOSH-approved N95 respirators undergo rigorous testing to ensure they meet specific filtration efficiency requirements, allowing them to filter out hazardous particles effectively.


Identifying NIOSH Approved N95 Respirators


As mentioned above, the easiest way to verify if your N95 respirator is NIOSH approved is by checking the NIOSH Certified Equipment List (CEL). All NIOSH-approved respirators bear a testing and certification (TC) approval number, such as TC 84A-XXXX, which must be displayed on the respirator.

By searching the TC approval number on the CEL, you can confirm the approval status and identify any associated private labels linked to that approval number. Staying informed about respirator approvals and revocations can be done through the NIOSH NPPTL Conformity Assessment Notices webpage and the NIOSH NPPTL listserv.


FFR Fit Testing by Employers 


NIOSH certification guarantees filtration efficiency, but not protection.

If a mask does not properly fit, it does not provide optimal protection. Respirators should form a tight seal to the face, otherwise, particles can leak into the breathing area. That’s why you need to conduct respirator fit tests at least once per year, or when conditions change.

Related: Respirator Fit Testing is Required Every Year

Qualitative or quantitative fit testing may be used.

Qualitative fit pass/fail tests determine respirator function by testing to see if a user can taste a test agent. These tests are performed by having a user wear a respirator and test enclosure. Then, a test agent is sprayed inside the enclosure to see if its presence can be detected by the user. If the user detects taste, then the respirator fails. 

Qualitative fit tests rely on an instrument to numerically measure any inward leakage of a respirator. These tests help to determine proper fit by giving a “fit factor” to a respirator and its user. This is expressed as the ratio of the concentration of a substance in ambient air to the concentration inside the respirator when worn.


Compliance and Safety Measures


Employers are mandated to ensure that workers use NIOSH-approved N95 respirators as part of a comprehensive respiratory protection program. This program should include elements like medical evaluations, fit testing, and training to ensure proper respirator usage.

Workers with chronic respiratory or medical conditions should consult healthcare providers before using N95 respirators. Additionally, maintaining a proper fit, avoiding exhalation valves in sterile conditions, and adhering to single-use guidelines are essential precautions for maximizing the effectiveness of N95 respirators.


Bringing It Together


NIOSH-approved N95 respirators are indispensable tools in protecting workers from airborne hazards in various occupational settings. Understanding the importance of NIOSH approval, the features of N95 respirators, and the necessary safety measures is crucial for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment.

By adhering to regulatory guidelines and best practices, employers and workers can effectively mitigate risks associated with airborne particles and prioritize occupational health and safety.


Get On-Site Fit Testing for N95s & More


Need on-site respirator fit testing for your team? It’s never been easier!

Worksite Medical brings respirator fit testing to you with our convenient, compliant mobile medical units.

We perform qualitative and quantitative fit testing for all of an employer’s facepiece respirator needs. Additionally, you can get audiometric exams, OSHA & NFPA physicals, drug & alcohol testing, and any lab work you need to keep your workplace safe and compliant.

Schedule now or get your risk-free quote today by completing the form below, or by calling us at 1-844-OCCUMED! You can also email us at



About Worksite Medical

In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.

Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.

We conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.

With Worksite Medical, a mobile medical testing unit — we can bring all the resources of a lab to you. Our certified lab technicians can perform both qualitative and quantitative respirator tests to ensure a perfect fit.

Protect your team and your workplace now with Worksite Medical. Not sure what you need? Try our medical testing wizard here.


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