New OSHA Air Filter Requirements Established for Healthcare Facilities

Published by MED Magazine

Healthcare facilities have a new OSHA requirement to take into consideration in relation to HVAC filtration.

All healthcare facilities’ air handler systems must have a MERV 13 or above filter within the system. On June 21, 2021, OSHA issued a new standard that air filters should be rated a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 13 or higher as the new requirement for healthcare facilities. If MERV 13 or higher filters aren’t compatible with an existing HVAC system, the facility must use filters with the highest compatible filtering efficiency. 

MERV is an efficiency rating that measures a filter’s ability to capture particulates between 0.3 and 10 microns. For reference, a human hair is 80-100 microns, household dust is 10 microns, mold spore is 3 microns and smoke is 1 micron. The particulates filtered out by MERV 13 filters are very tiny.

[Click here to view micron comparisons]

Tyler Pierce has been the aftermarket parts and service manager with O'Connor Company, a division of HVAC Elements, for 16 years. Pierce oversees replacement parts, indoor air quality solutions and air filters. 

“A MERV rating of 13 means the filter is 89-90% % efficient with a .3 to 1 micron particulate, compared to a MERV 8, which is only 30-35% efficient at 3-10 microns,” Pierce explains. “The goal is to capture more particulates going through the air stream to increase indoor air quality, reducing airborne particulates in the air and have better air to breathe, which could potentially reduce illnesses.” 

It’s likely that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the driving force behind the new standard; Pierce says this latest edict is the first OSHA requirement specifically on filtration. “Bringing in more outdoor air in the past has been a good solution, but in today’s pandemic status we need to take a closer look at filtration and indoor air quality,” he says.

In addition to upgrading your facility’s air filter, there are other approaches you can take to help optimize air quality. Needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI) allows particles too small for standard filters to capture the ability to agglomerate, or get larger, and settle out of the airspace or travel to the air handler to be filtered out. NPBI has been proven successful in reducing airborne pathogens and increasing indoor air quality. 

HVAC Elements offers on-site evaluation of your facility’s air handler capabilities and performance which will determine the highest efficiency filters your air handler or roof top unit is capable of utilizing. 

“We recommend changing filters according to pressure drop instead of a set time schedule,” Pierce says. “Monitoring your pressure drop monthly throughout the course of a year will help determine your future typical change frequency.”  

The Air Pressure Drop, or Differential Pressure (ΔP), of the filter can be measured with a magnehelic gauge or digital manometer. The filter ΔP is measured by referencing the static pressure before and after the filter. The lower pressure reading is subtracted from the higher pressure reading to get the filter’s ΔP. A magnehelic gauge can be installed directly to your HVAC equipment or a portable manometer can be used to reference the filter’s ΔP. In many cases, the Filter ΔP can also be monitored by your Building Automation System.

View full OSHA standard here: