The Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) has updated its Web Resources Guide, which includes links to all manner of regulations, guidelines, and training materials by federal agencies and healthcare organizations.1

In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has posted a series of answers to commonly asked questions about respirator use. The Filtering Out Confusion questions deal with respirator reuse, fit-testing, seal checks, and other issues.2-4

For example, consider this new NIOSH answer to a common question on fit-testing3:

Question: Can I have facial hair and still be fit-tested to wear a tight-fitting respirator?

NIOSH: “The OSHA respirator standard prohibits tight-fitting respirators to be worn by workers who have facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face of the wearer. Facial hair that lies along the sealing area of a respirator, such as beards, sideburns, or some mustaches, will interfere with respirators that rely on a tight facepiece seal to achieve maximum protection.

Research tells us that the presence of facial hair under the sealing surface causes 20 to 1,000 times more leakage compared to clean-shaven individuals. Gases, vapors, and particles in the air will take the path of least resistance and bypass the part of the respirator that captures or filters hazards out. A common misconception is that human hair can act as a crude filter to capture any particles that are in the airstream between the sealing surface and the user’s skin.

However, while human hair appears to be very thin to the naked eye, hair is much larger in size than the particles inhaled. Facial hair is not dense enough and the individual hairs are too large to capture particles like an air filter does; nor will a beard trap gases and vapors like the carbon bed in a respirator cartridge. Therefore, the vast majority of particles, gases, and vapors follow the air stream right through the facial hair and into respiratory tract of the wearer. In fact, some studies have shown that even a day or two of stubble can begin to reduce protection.”

In a related development, the AOHP and NIOSH signed a three-year Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), effective July 12, 2018, that extends the association’s collaborative relationship as a Total Worker Health affiliate.

NIOSH launched the Total Worker Health program in June 2011 to advance worker well-being with policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts, the AOHP reports.

REFERENCES

1. AOHP. Beyond Getting Started Series. Respiratory Protection in Healthcare Settings Web Reference Guide, July 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/2JTFQTq.

2. NIOSH. Filtering out Confusion: Frequently Asked Questions about Respiratory Protection, Respirator Reuse, and Extended Use. Pub. No. 2018-128, April 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/2LyrKM9.

3. NIOSH. Filtering out Confusion: Frequently Asked Questions about Respiratory Protection, Fit Testing. Pub. No. 2018-129, April 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/2LFjx8K.

4. NIOSH. Filtering out Confusion: Frequently Asked Questions about Respiratory Protection, User Seal Check. No. 2018-130, April 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/2Oj5ynx.