Respirator Fit Testing for Medical Students

Medical students may be exposed to environmental contaminants and infectious diseases during their training. They must, therefore, have respirators that they can use to protect themselves on the job.

Why Are Respirators Necessary?

When medical students participate in clinical activities, they may interact with patients who have communicable diseases. Bacteria and viruses can spread easily from person to person, and a medical student who became infected could then transmit illness to other patients and staff. In addition, medical students could be exposed to environmental contaminants, such as dust and toxic fumes, that could affect their health and make them more susceptible to other infections. In dangerous circumstances, respirators can provide valuable protection.

How Is Respirator Fit Testing Conducted?

A respirator will only work if it fits correctly. Respirators must be fitted to specific individuals to account for variations in anatomy. Fit tests should be repeated at least once a year so adjustments can be made if necessary.

Prior to a fit test, the employer must decide which type of respirator to issue employees. This depends on the types and concentrations of toxins employees may be exposed to and the potential length of exposure.

On the day of the fit test, medical students must bring their respirators, as well as any other personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles and face shields, that they will use in conjunction with the respirator and that might affect its fit. Facial hair can also affect the fit of a respirator, so employees must be clean-shaven for a fit test.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employees to complete a medical evaluation questionnaire to be reviewed by the medical provider performing the fit test. The provider will determine whether an employee has any medical limitations that could affect the use of a respirator or whether a follow-up medical evaluation is necessary.

A qualitative fit test is used to evaluate negative pressure respirators and tight-fitting face pieces that are used in conjunction with powered and atmosphere-supplying respirators. A medical student will breathe, move, and talk and tell the person administering the test whether he or she can smell a test agent. If no odor is detected, the test is passed, and the student can wear the respirator on the job.

A quantitative fit test can be used to evaluate any tight-fitting respirator. An instrument is used to detect leakage around the face seal and to determine the “fit factor,” a number that indicates whether it is safe for the worker to use the respirator.

Keep Medical Staff Safe

Respirators can protect medical students from many hazards they may encounter in their clinical work, but respirators must fit correctly to do their job. This is why professional fit testing is essential. Respond Systems offers both qualitative and quantitative respirator fit testing services. Contact us today to learn more.

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