Have you been fit tested?
With increased patient visitation and ongoing cases of COVID-19, colds and flu, it is more important than ever for staff at Northern Health to continue wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and N95 respirators safely.
All staff required to wear N95 respirators must be quantitatively fit tested, and undergo repeat testing every 12 months to ensure that masks previously worn continue to fit satisfactorily. N95 respirators worn at Northern Health must be approved, and are not to be adapted, for example, straps pulled off and re-tied.
A fit test is also required where there are significant physical changes to the face, such as rapid weight gain or loss, or changes to the nose structure.
Tess Norwood, Respiratory Protection Program Coordinator, said clinical and non-clinical staff who walk around our sites, and enter patient-facing areas, are required to be fit tested for an N95 respirator.
“The annual fit test is also a great opportunity for staff to try N95s, and speak with our fit test team about any questions or concerns. Our fit testing team at Northern Health include highly experienced respiratory scientists and occupational hygienists, so you know that we truly care about you and your safety.”
“Our fit testing protocols are considered best in industry, and our facilities are rigorously disinfected between visits.”
Once fit tested, staff receive a printed card with the correct fitting masks, so they know which N95s fit them best.
“It is important to remember that staff are only permitted to wear the masks that they have been fitted for on their most recent test. This means that, even masks that previously passed but were not re-tested, cannot be worn,” Tess said.
“Facial hair, long hair caught in the seal, and heavy makeup can interfere with achieving an adequate seal. Staff are encouraged to don masks in front of a mirror, ask a colleague to check them, carefully maintain facial hair and keep long hair tied back.”
Northern Health staff who are unable to be clean shaven for an N95 respirator due to religious, cultural or medical reasons, are invited to take part in a new fit testing method study.
Singh Thattha is an alternative N95 respirator fit testing method for staff with facial hair. The Singh Thattha method involves a specialised under-mask beard/facial hair cover worn securely around the head, acting as a synthetic skin. The N95 mask then seals to the band, rather than across the facial hair. To express interest in the trial and for more information, please email Tess.Norwood@nh.org.au or visit the Intranet.
An LMS fit testing module will also be launching soon, where staff will be able to store their fit test reports and receive notifications when they’re due for annual testing.
For any questions or concerns relating to N95 respirators and fit testing, staff are encouraged to email OHSWB@nh.org.au.
Northern Health’s Fit Testing Centre is available for bookings Monday – Friday, 8 am to 4 pm. To make a fit testing booking, click here.
Featured image: Tess Norwood, Respiratory Protection Program Coordinator and Kristin Southwell, Senior Respiratory Scientist.