New Jersey Department of Labor On-Site Consultation Staff Volunteer to Inspect Donated PPE
As the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became increasingly apparent, government entities around the country began gathering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for use by frontline workers. In New Jersey, staff from the state’s On-Site Consultation program were part of a team that helped ensure that donated PPE was safe to distribute to frontline workers in the state.
The State of New Jersey maintains a supply of PPE that is stored in a warehouse by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP). In late March of 2020, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) Preparedness Bureau asked the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) for assistance in inspecting thousands of pieces of donated PPE to ensure suitability for distribution.
Six staff members from the NJDOL’s Division of Public Safety and Occupational Safety and Health, representing the Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) On-Site Consultation program, Office of Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH), and Mine Safety Training program, volunteered to provide their safety expertise in performing this important task. Teams of two traveled to the warehouse several times each week to move, sort, inventory, and inspect the PPE.
The NJDOL safety inspectors evaluated all types of PPE, including N95 and foreign equivalent respirators, cloth face masks, surgical masks, goggles, safety glasses, face shields, coveralls, booties, hoods, chemical suits, hand sanitizers and rubs, and nitrile, latex, medical exam, and cloth work gloves. These items were inspected for expiration dates, material type, obvious defects, quality, approvals from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and any evidence of counterfeit items. The NJDOL volunteers also reviewed any testing data that may indicate substandard quality PPE. Virtual inspections were also performed, when necessary, in cooperation with the facility’s warehouse manager. The teams inspected a total of 27 pallets of donated PPE virtually during a two-week period working off site.
PPE that passed inspection was moved to a different warehouse in the central part of the state for distribution to health care workers and first responders. Once the PPE reached its final destination, the employers that received the PPE continued to conduct regular inspections per OSHA standards. PPE that did not pass the inspection of the NJDOL volunteers was either discarded, or deemed appropriate for situations where COVID-19 exposure was a lower risk.
Because of the NJDOL inspection teams’ efforts, the PPE distributed by the State of New Jersey was held to the highest standards to ensure the safety of frontline workers.
The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small and medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories, with priority given to high hazard worksites. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards and how to fix them, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, train and educate workers, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from OSHA enforcement efforts and do not result in penalties or citations. To locate the OSHA On-Site Consultation program nearest you, call 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit www.osha.gov/consultation.