How N95s Can Help Protect Healthcare Professionals, Industrial Workers & Consumers

How N95s Can Help Protect Healthcare Professionals, Industrial Workers & Consumers

COVID‐19 is highly contagious and transmitted mostly through respiratory droplets.1 Therefore, respiratory protection continues to be an important source of protection against the novel virus — regardless of whether you’re a healthcare professional, industrial worker or general consumer.

According to the CDC, an uninfected person with no face covering can be infected if they go within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes. The time increases to 27 minutes if both are wearing a cloth face mask and up to 2,500 hours if both are wearing a fit-tested N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator (FFR).2

While OSHA states vaccination is the most effective way to protect against COVID-19,3 employers are responsible for providing their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.4 If employers can’t fully eliminate hazards, they are required to provide appropriate PPE, which includes providing workers with disposable respirators to meet the latest OSHA, CDC and FDA recommendations.

OSHA explains: “An N95 respirator is effective in protecting workers from the virus that causes COVID-19. … The virus is part of larger particles that are made up of water and other materials such as mucus. These larger particles are easily trapped and filtered out by N95 respirators because they are too big to pass through the filter.”5

The respiratory requirements during COVID-19 for healthcare facilities, industrial environments and consumer use are different. It’s important to understand the key differences between N95 respirators, KN95s, surgical masks and cloth masks so you can choose the right PPE. Below you will find information to help you decipher which disposable respirators are best for different application needs based on your specific environment.

N95s for Healthcare Facilities During COVID-19

Understanding the Type of Disposable Respiratory Protection Healthcare Professionals Need

Healthcare professionals need reliable protection from airborne particulates. Employers should provide workers with respirators that meet regulatory clearance based on their specific work environment needs.

To fully comply with FDA and OSHA standards, healthcare professionals should utilize NIOSH-certified Surgical N95s. Non-Surgical N95s, cloth face masks, surgical masks and KN95s don’t provide the same level of protection, which is why it’s important to understand the key differences.

The fluid rating is the main difference between Surgical N95 respirators and Non-Surgical N95 respirators. Non-Surgical N95s provide the same level of filtration efficiency but are not evaluated for fluid resistance, flammability or biocompatibility. However, Non-Surgical N95s may be used in healthcare facilities under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization for Respirators During COVID-19 (reissued July 21, 2021).6,7 Surgical N95 respirators and Non-Surgical N95 respirators meet the NIOSH 42 CFR Part 84 standard as they are tested for particulate filtration efficiency (NaCl), exhalation and inhalation resistance.6,8

Surgical face masks – also referred to as isolation masks or procedure masks – are primarily intended to provide barrier protection against large particle droplets and splashes of blood or bodily fluids in exhaled breath or sneezes. However, surgical face masks provide less protection than tight-fitting respirators because there isn’t a negative pressure seal. The wearer is at a higher risk of breathing in contaminated air that leaks into the mask when wearing surgical face masks and they don’t comply with the FDA and OSHA standards during COVID-19.9

Surgical face masks go through testing for the FDA ASTM F2100 standard that includes fluid penetration, Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE), Particulate Filtration Efficiency (PFE) as well as breathability, flammability and biocompatibility.

Breaking Down the Latest Osha & Fda Guidance for Healthcare Professionals

In healthcare facilities where the risk of transmission for COVID-19 is high, there is OSHA and FDA guidance that healthcare professionals should follow to help protect against dangerous airborne particles.  

The OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (29 CFR 1910, Subpart U) applies to all healthcare facilities with some exceptions. To see if your workplace is affected, check out OSHA’s easy-to-follow chart. The standard details respiratory protection that healthcare professionals should adhere to, including:10

  • Universal face masks for all employees
  • Respirator, gloves, gown and eye protection for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. There isn’t an allowance for a surgical face mask as a substitute.
  • Respirators for aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) on COVID patients
  • Mini-respiratory protection program waives fit-testing when N95s used for source-control or as a substitute for face masks
  • Incorporates by reference CDC IC guidance

The OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard ties into the FDA Emergency Use Authorizations for Respirators During COVID-19, which was reissued July 21, 2021. This includes the use of all NIOSH-approved FFR Respirators (including non-surgical N95s not rated for fluid resistance) and NIOSH-approved reusable APRs and PAPRs.11

The FDA guidance also recommends transitioning away from using disposable respirators for an extended time as well as adopting conventional capacity strategies instead of crisis strategies such as using one disposable respirator per patient. Additionally, the FDA guidance states healthcare professionals should evaluate their supply of NIOSH-approved respirators and continue to increase their inventory of N95 respirators, other disposable respirators, elastomeric respirators or PAPRs.12

It’s important to note the FDA revoked three EUAs, which includes: 11

  • Imported, Non-NIOSH-Approved Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators (revoked effective July 6, 2021)
  • Non-NIOSH-Approved Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators Manufactured in China (revoked effective July 6, 2021)
  • Decontamination and Bioburden Reduction System EUAs for Personal Protective Equipment (revoked effective June 30, 2021)

We know it can be challenging to find the right respiratory protection to help protect your healthcare professionals during COVID-19. That’s why we have a team of healthcare experts to help you find the solutions you need. Learn more about our innovative NIOSH-approved Surgical and Non-Surgical N95 Respirators designed with comfort and optimal fit to meet the NIOSH and FDA requirements for healthcare professionals.

N95s for Industrial Workplaces During COVID-19

Respiratory violations on OSHA’s top 10 list of most frequently cited standards have increased from No. 5 in 2019 to No. 2 in 2021.13,14 N95s are the only disposable respirators approved by OSHA for use in the workplace in the U.S. and Canada. Using a KN95, mask or face covering in an environment requiring a disposable respirator could lead to OSHA fines up to $14,502 per violation for not adhering to standard 1910.134.15  

When selecting respirators for your workplace, it’s important to find solutions from a company you can trust. According to the CDC, about 60% of KN95 respirators in the United States are counterfeit and do not meet NIOSH requirements.16 Furthermore, the FDA revoked the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of non-NIOSH-approved respirators in June of 202112 as seen below:

  • Imported, Non-NIOSH-Approved Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators (revoked effective July 6, 2021)
  • Non-NIOSH-Approved Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators Manufactured in China (revoked effective July 6, 2021)
  • Decontamination and Bioburden Reduction System EUAs for Personal Protective Equipment (revoked effective June 30, 2021)

When it comes to respiratory protection, versatility, comfort and fit are key. Respiratory protection is only effective if they are correctly selected, fitted and worn with an effective seal in environments where hazardous contaminants could be transmitted.

To help provide an effective seal between the respirator and the edges of the wearer’s face, N95s are built with head bands instead of ear loops for a tighter fit. When the seal is broken, protection is compromised as contaminated air can leak through any gaps. Face masks with ear loops generally don’t hold the mask tight enough against the face to provide an effective seal. In many instances, fit testing is a requirement. Reach out to one of our respiratory experts to get further advice for your specific work situation.

Honeywell’s NIOSH- and OSHA-compliant industrial respiratory solutions are designed to help protect workers when and where they need it most. Learn more about our industrial respiratory products.

N95s for General Public Consumer Use During COVID-19

When it comes to general public use, N95 disposable respirators are considered to provide the best-in-class protection. Wearing N95s increases protection and reduces the risk of catching COVID-19 because of the effective seal.

It’s important to note N95s come in both flatfold and cup shape options that are NIOSH-approved. Even though flatfold N95s may look very similar to KN95s, the filtration efficiency and the tightness of the seal against the face won’t be the same due to ear loop vs. head strap styles.

Just like with healthcare and industrial uses, it’s also crucial as a consumer to purchase N95s from a trusted company. With so many counterfeit respirators in the market, purchasing from a reliable company that you can trust helps reduce the risk of fraud and ensure you’re getting the protection you need.

Honeywell’s N95 Respirators are available to the general public through our retail store and have been featured in the press as a consumer choice. Visit our Honeywell Retail Store for high-quality N95 respirators.

Not All Respiratory Protection is Created Equal

Selecting the appropriate respiratory PPE and knowing how to wear it properly is important in helping keep you and others around you protected. With so many options, it is important to know you are being protected with regulated, quality respiratory protection – regardless of whether you are in the general public or a frontline worker.

Finding respiratory solutions you can trust to provide versatility and comfort starts with Honeywell. Safety is in our DNA. For 100+ years, we’ve been protecting workers in the industrial workplace and now we’ve expanded to protect more people in more environments with innovative products that meet changing needs, including in the healthcare and retail space. Our N95 Respirators meet NIOSH quality standards, are OSHA compliant and are a preferred choice by everyday consumers.

Contact your local Honeywell representative or visit our retail store to learn more about our NIOSH-approved Surgical and Non-Surgical N95 Respirators.




1NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7405220/

2ACGIH, https://www.acgih.org/covid-19-fact-sheet-worker-resp/

3OSHA, https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework

4OSHA, https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA4045.pdf

5OSHA, https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/faqs#respirator

6CDC, https://archive.cdc.gov/#/details?url=https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirators-strategy/index.html

7FDA, https://www.fda.gov/media/135763/download

8FDA, https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/domestic-mous/mou-225-18-006

 9ASTM, https://www.astm.org/f2100-21.html

10OSHA, https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets

11FDA, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-emergency-use-authorizations-medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-euas#respirators

12FDA, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/letters-health-care-providers/update-fda-no-longer-authorizes-use-non-niosh-approved-or-decontaminated-disposable-respirators

 13Safety and Health Magazine, https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/21949-oshas-top-10-most-cited-violations-for-fy-2021

 14Safety and Health Magazine, https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/19087-oshas-top-10-most-cited-violations

15OSHA, https://www.osha.gov/penalties

16CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html