Personal protective equipment

Study notes deficiencies in respirator use among health care workers

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Minneapolis – Although most health care workers take measures to guard against aerosol-transmissible diseases, deficiencies in respirator use and other areas may be putting some workers at risk, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Researchers conducted interviews with 363 health care workers and 171 managers from high-risk departments in 28 hospitals throughout Minnesota and Illinois. They also reviewed written programs from each hospital, and observed 77 health care workers donning and doffing respirators.

The researchers found that most written programs lacked details regarding medical evaluation, respirator fit testing and training. The programs likewise lacked a comprehensive risk assessment for aerosol-transmissible diseases, with tuberculosis being the only pathogen addressed.

Health care workers rarely chose respirators for higher-risk exposures, opting instead for less-protective surgical masks. Respirators were more likely to be chosen, however, when the health care worker was being exposed to tuberculosis.

Although most health care workers with access to NIOSH-certified N95 respirators were seen properly positioning the facepiece, observers noted failures to correctly place straps, perform a user seal check, and remove respirator using straps.

The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.