The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, known as NIOSH, is the United States federal agency in charge of conducting research and providing guidelines for the prevention of work-related injury or illness. It is a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIOSH, along with its sister agency OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), was established in 1970 following the signage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
NIOSH was created with the aim of ensuring safety and healthy working conditions through research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health. The agency offers both national and international leadership to reduce work-related illness, injury, disability, and death by conducting scientific research, gathering information, and applying this knowledge into products and services. One part of NIOSH’s operations is validating the legitimacy of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirator masks. This blog will discuss how you can be sure your N95 mask is NIOSH approved.
Unfortunately, many mask manufacturers are trying to profit off of the COVID-19 pandemic by claiming their masks are NIOSH approved and N95 rated. To determine if the mask you have is a legitimate N95, the first place to check is the exterior markings on the base of the front of the mask. This area will generally list the approval number, the private label holder (manufacturer), the NIOSH name, and the masks rating. An illegitimate mask may, for example, feature incorrect information here or list “NISH” or “NSH” instead of “NIOSH.” This can be easy to miss, so be sure to check this area of the mask carefully.
Apart from this, there are three other things you can do to be sure your PPE is NIOSH approved. First, check the respirator approval markings and cross reference them with the CDC certified equipment list. Here, you should be able to find a code that matches the one on your mask. Second, look for the NIOSH Trusted Source Page. This will list reputable sources to get your mask from. If you cannot find the source your mask came from on this list, it may not be approved. Finally, consult the CDC counterfeit respirator list. As NIOSH is made aware of any counterfeit respirators or respirators lying about NIOSH approval, they will be added to this list. All three of these resources can be extremely helpful in ensuring the quality of your mask.
Finally, let us examine the correct exterior markings of a NIOSH approved respirator. There are six markings to look for: the approval number, model number, lot number, filter class & efficiency, NIOSH name or logo, and the brand name of the mask’s manufacturer. These are all relatively self-explanatory, but it is important to note the filter class and efficiency. Depending on the reason the mask will be used, there may be a minimum requirement. The filter classes are N, P, and R, and the filter efficiency levels are 95, 99, or 100. Hence the name N95. The efficiency number refers to the percentage of particles the mask blocks. If your mask features all this information listed correctly, you can have the peace of mind of knowing it is NIOSH approved.
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