Bird Flu Cause State of Emergency in Iowa: How To Protect Workers

Should Employees Have Respirator Fit Test For N95 Masks During Avian Flu Outbreak?

As of May 30, 2024, there have been over 96 million poultry affected by the virus, plus nearly 10,000 wild birds and 79 dairy herds.

The bird flu is affecting poultry across 48 states and cows in 9 states.

In Sioux County, USDA confirmed a positive case of avian influenza in humans from commercial layer chickens. The state emergency will remain in effect through June 27 and will waive:

  • Hours of service for commercial vehicles hauling loads related to the disaster during its duration
  • Weight requirements which will be temporarily suspended for loads related to the emergency response on state highways excluding the interstate system. These loads cannot exceed a maximum gross weight of 90,000 pounds or a maximum axle weight of 20,000 pounds.

Motor carriers with an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief provided by this emergency order.

There have also been 3 human cases of avian flu related to exposure to dairy cows which were affected by the H5 virus.

Should Employees Have Respirator Fit Test For N95 Masks During Avian Flu Outbreak?

Employees should avoid direct contact with wild birds and animals expected to be contagious, if possible.

While the CDC says the avian flu detections do not present an immediate public health concern, many chicken, turkey, cow, and duck farms are encouraging their staff use proper PPE.

Additionally, if the virus mutates, the risk to humans (particularly the workers) could be greater and the need for staff to wear N95 masks rises.

A respirator cannot protect your employees if it does not fit their face. If a respirator doesn’t fit your face properly, contaminated air can leak into the respirator facepiece, and you could breathe in hazardous substances.

When it comes to OSHA, there are unique rules and recommendations surrounding respirators and employee health and safety.

Staff that must use any respirator are required to undergo respirator fit testing, medical clearance, and training as required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134. 

A respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee. The employer shall provide respirators which are applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The employer shall be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a respiratory protection program. The employer is responsible for ensuring that a medical evaluation is performed to ensure that using a respirator will not place a physiological burden on the employee.

respirator fit test determines if a tight-fitting respirator seals appropriately and does not leak. It should only take place after an employee has been medically cleared to wear a respirator and before the employee actually wears it on the job.

An employee should be fit tested when they are first issued an N95 and then annually thereafter.

If you are considering using N95 respirator masks at the workplace, here are some important tips:

  • Comply with the OSHA 29 CFR § 1910.134 regulations
  • Perform initial fit tests for each HCP with the same model, style, and size respirator that the worker will be required to wear
  • Explain to workers the importance of performing a user seal check each time they put an N95 mask on to make sure they are getting an adequate seal from their respirator
  • If the mask seems to be broken, workers should inform their supervisor or their respirator program administrator immediately

Choose CNS Occupational Medicine for your respirator physical and fit test

Our Occupational Medicine Team follows a specific process for every employee that is tested, including a respirator fit test

  • Prior to any employee evaluation, employers are required to complete an information evaluation form on each employee
  • The employee will be evaluated using the mandatory OSHA “Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire”
  • When an employee is medically cleared to wear a respirator, the PLHCP clinician will provide the employee and employer with a written medical opinion for respirator use
  • After being medical cleared for respirator use, the employee may undergo a respirator fit test

Schedule your respirator physical, medical exam, and fit test today.

For more information, contact us at 800.551.9816 or

Please be advised that all articles, blogs and written material are not intended to replace the advice of a physician.

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