Key Takeaways

- Receiving reusable respirators and corresponding ongoing communication and training may improve worker well-being, serving as a tangible indicator of organizational support.

- From an emergency preparedness standpoint, organizations may consider stockpiling reusable elastomeric half-mask respirators and updating their respiratory protection program (RPP) to include education about these respirators.

- From a health promotion standpoint, it may behoove organizations to develop comprehensive programs that emphasize management practices to increase worker perceptions of safety climate and, consequently, worker mental health and well-being.

- Supervisor or frontline leadership communication and engagement in the implementation of RPPs is critical to foster trust and adoption of new respirators. Ongoing role modeling and support by management to comply with the RPP or other safety and health plans are necessary to garner employee-wide participation in respiratory protection.

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The shared perceptions of policies and practices that prioritize worker safety and health are referred to as an organization’s safety climate (Dollard & Bakker, 2010; Zohar, 2010) and has been used as a leading indicator of workers’ physical safety, mental health and well-being (Zadow et al., 2021). Within healthcare, safety climate dimensions including management support of safety and health programs, employee communication, safety-related feedback and training, and availability of PPE have been shown to impact worker perceptions and subsequent mental health outcomes (DeJoy et al., 2017; Gershon et al., 2000).

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortage of disposable N95-filtering facepiece respirators was linked to adverse mental health outcomes among health workers (e.g., Arnetz et al., 2020; Khajuria et al., 2021; Spoorthy et al., 2020). Although research has documented negative outcomes because of disposable respirator shortages, no research has identified the role of reusable respirators, which were increasingly used during the COVID-19 pandemic after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization to use NIOSH-Approved elastomeric half-mask respirators (EHMRs) in health settings (HHS, 2020a).

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