The importance of an up-to-date respirator fit testing program

Every few years, there seems to be a new virus that attracts a lot of media attention. We’ve had swine flu, bird flu, SARS, MERS, and most recently Ebola in the headlines. The healthcare and first responder world are put on full alert. Do we over-react? Maybe. But, it often gets us back to what we should be doing in the first place. We should have a plan to reduce risk. A respirator fit testing program is one of them.

I attended an all day seminar recently regarding personal protective equipment for Ebola and one of the biggest takeaways was the importance respirator usage. Two of the speakers, Lisa Brosseau, ScD and Rachael Jones, PhD, had written an article that sparked some controversy stating that it was very likely Ebola could be spread via aerosols. This was taken in some circles that Ebola was airborne. It is not. Healthcare workers could be exposed to particles from sneezing, vomiting and diarrhea (all of which are symptoms of Ebola). Without proper protection, it is possible to inhale small liquid particles of these infectious body fluids.

Next to healthcare workers, first responders would be the most likely to come in contact with someone with an infectious disease.  I was a little surprised at the number of fire department and police departments that were contacting us looking for ways to get caught up with their N-95 fit testing. Many haven’t done it in years (if at all). The Chicago Fire Department made headlines when the head of the union had to go to the fire commissioner to demand that N-95 fit testing be completed on their firefighters.  It’s not a problem unique to first responders either. I’ve had conversations with hospitals that are reevaluating (or at least reviewing) how they perform fit testing after recent events.

We may be past the days where Ebola is on the front page, but when the next virus-de-jour hits, do you want to be the organization that says “we have had a plan in place, we execute that plan, and we are confident that our risk level is low” or the one going “um, we are developing a plan?”

Learn more about respirator fit testing

RAECO-LIC LLC is the authorized TSI representative in the Midwest United States. If you’re looking to improve your fit testing, we may be able to help.

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