A key consideration for safe long use is that the respirator must keep its fit and function. Workers in other industries commonly use N95 respirators for several hours uninterrupted. Experience in these settings shows that respirators can function within their design specifics for 8 hours of continuous or intermittent use. Some research studies have hired healthcare workers as test subjects and many of those subjects have effectively worn an N95 respirator at work for several hours before they required to remove them.
Thus, the maximum length of unrelenting use in non-dusty healthcare workplaces is typically dependent by hygienic concerns (e.g., the respirator was discarded due to contamination) or practical reasons (e.g., need to use the restroom, meal breaks, etc.), rather than a pre-set number of hours.
Sanitize your hands before and after wearing a mask
If reuse of N95 respirators is allowed, respiratory protection program administrators should ensure compliance to administrative and engineering controls to limit possible N95 respirator surface contamination (e.g., use of barriers to avoid droplet spray contamination) and consider additional training and reminders (e.g., posters) for workers to reinforce the requirement to minimize unnecessary contact with the respirator surface, strict abidance to hand hygiene practices, and proper PPE donning and doffing technique, including physical inspection and performing a user seal check. Healthcare facilities should develop clearly written procedures to advise staff to take the following procedure to reduce contact transmission:
Discard N95 respirators after use during aerosol generating procedures.
Throw out N95 respirators contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions, or other bodily fluids from patients.
Discard N95 masks after close contact with any patient co-infected with an infectious disease needing contact precautions.
Consider use of a reusable face shield over an N95 respirator and/or other steps (e.g., masking patients, use of engineering controls), when feasible to minimize surface contamination of the respirator.
Hang used respirators in a specific storage area or keep them in a clean, breathable container such as a paper bag between uses. To minimize potential cross-contamination, store respirators so that they do not come into contact with each other and the person using the respirator is clearly identified.
Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer prior to and after touching or adjusting the respirator (if needed for comfort or to maintain fit).
Avoid touching the interior of the respirator. If inadvertent contact is made with the interior of the respirator, discard the respirator and clean your hands as described above.