Will HCWs welcome a B95 respirator?

New designs on tap for health care

A better respirator designed specifically for health care workers is on the horizon. Manufacturers are working with the Veterans Health Administration and its Project BREATHE to create a B95, a respirator to protect against biologic hazards.

Occupational health professionals and others involved in health care respiratory protection will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the respirator design at the June meeting of the National Personal Protection Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (See editor’s note for more information on the meeting.)

“Basically, it would be like an N95-plus, with all the standards for an N95 plus the criteria from Project BREATHE,” says Megan Gosch, MPH, public health program specialist at the National Center for Occupational Health and Infection Control of the Veterans Health Administration in Gainesville, FL.

The ideal health care respirator would be more comfortable and tolerable. It would be easier and more obvious how to put it on and take it off properly. Those were the conclusions of research by Project BREATHE, which contracted with two manufacturers — Scott Safety and 3M — to develop prototypes.

A B95 might be somewhat more expensive than an N95, but the goal is for the price to be similar, Gosch says.

“We want this to be a product that’s desired by the end-users,” she says. “It does make a difference knowing that product was made specifically for you and your industry.”

A B95 would probably be certified by an independent organization, such as the International Safety Equipment Association or the International Standards Organization (ISO), says Ron Shaffer, PhD, senior scientist with the Office of the Director of the NPPTL in Pittsburgh.

The NPPTL meeting, which will be held in Atlanta, will feature roundtable discussions on current research and will reflect on lessons learned from the H1N1 flu pandemic. It will include information about the effectiveness of respirators compared to masks and studies of factors that influence health care worker compliance.

The two issues are interrelated, Shaffer says. “Studies have shown that workers are more likely to comply with PPE if they feel it’s effective,” he says.

Education is an important component of a successful program, he says. NIOSH will debut a national respirator toolkit to help respiratory program managers improve their worker training.

“Even if you created an ideal respirator, if it’s not used, then they’re not going to get a lot of benefit from that respirator,” he says. “It’s more complicated than just providing a better respirator. You need to provide the full complement of tools so [health care workers] use the respirator properly.”

The NPPTL meeting is a rare opportunity for occupational health professionals to have input into PPE technology. “The more input we get the better we think the end product will be,” says Shaffer.

Editor’s note: The NPPTL Personal Protective Technology Healthcare Stakeholder Meeting will be held June 18 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. More information is available at http://ow.ly/k9Hxx