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The 2019 Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a public health emergency that healthcare facilities and workers are facing worldwide. Healthcare workers need confidence in their respiratory protection as the disease continues to spread. It is vital to properly prepare and train healthcare workers to respond to the threat.

One critical step in helping ensure healthcare worker safety is fit testing filtering facepieces, like disposable respirators. According to the HSE, the effectiveness of disposable respirators to control exposures to airborne infectious diseases is highly dependent on proper fit and use.

What is respirator fit testing and why should I do it?

Providing even the highest quality FFP2 or FFP3 respirators to healthcare workers and enforcing their use is only the first step. The efficiency of a respirator’s filter material alone does not reduce dangers posed by airborne hazards. The other necessary step is to reduce exposure by ensuring that respirators fit along with proper training and continued use. If a respirator does not seal properly to a person’s face, the airborne hazards can leak underneath the facepiece seal and into healthcare worker’s breathing zone.

Respirator fit testing is a key component of any respiratory protection programme that protects staff from airborne hazards. Businesses that have workers wearing respirators are required by HSE INDG 479 to perform respirator fit testing, which is the only way to know if a respiratory protective equipment fits correctly. Even the best mask cannot protect the wearer if it leaks, with poor fit due to facial characteristics or the wrong model mask selected being the major cause.

Maximise safety with quantitative fit testing

To fit test respirators, many healthcare facilities are using manual and time-consuming qualitative methods with Saccharin and Bitrex. With these qualitative methods, fit test administrators must rely on a person’s senses and self-reported feedback to determine if a mask is a proper fit. As qualitative fit testing is a manual process, there can be considerable variation in how fit tests are performed and the quality of those tests.

To get objective results quantitative respirator fit testing (QNFT) is the best choice. With this method, an instrument is involved to measure how well a respirator fits. QNFT eliminates the guesswork and subjectivity associated with qualitative testing methods and provides users with data that accurately describes respirator fit. Healthcare practitioners, including physicians, surgeons and registered nurses, should be fit tested by accredited fit testing specialists to ensure high respiratory protection.

Simplify mask selection and improve training

For a respirator to provide protection it must both fit and be worn correctly. The PortaCount® Respirator Fit Tester is the only quantitative instrument that works for any type or brand of disposable filtering facepieces. The instrument features intelligent touchscreen solutions, providing assistance across your entire respiratory protection programme from training through compliance. It takes real time measurements during movement, under real-world conditions to provide both staff and administrators with a greater understanding of how a respirator may or may not fit.

Learn how the PortaCount Respirator Fit Tester helped a Birmingham hospital here.

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