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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

NIOSH research focusing on compliance and proper use of respirators, PPE

Occupational health research is zeroing in on one of the most difficult aspects of respiratory protection: Health care worker compliance.

Health care workers have a poor record when it comes to personal protective equipment, with ongoing research finding many gaps in education and compliance. For example, in North Carolina, about one in three health care workers did not don or doff respirators properly or perform hand hygiene after removing them. In Minnesota, one in seven did not know respirators were supposed to be fit-tested.

Given such findings, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is focusing on compliance in its action plan for health care worker personal protective equipment. That includes continued work toward a more comfortable, user-friendly respirator as well as research into awareness, training strategies, and safety culture. The NIOSH action plan is open for comments through September 13 and a final version is expected by the end of the year.

“It’s not enough just to build a better respirator,” says Ron Shaffer, PhD, senior scientist in the Office of the Director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh. “You need to build a better respirator that people actually wear.”

Previous studies have clearly demonstrated the relationship between proper use and protection, he says. “You really need to be wearing your respirator during all periods of exposure,” he says. “Even a small non-wear time dramatically reduces the protection that you will get.”

--Michele Marill

For more on this story see the October issue of Hospital Employee Health.