Exploring respiratory protection practices for prominent hazards in healthcare settings
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Exploring respiratory protection practices for prominent hazards in healthcare settings

  • Published Date:

    August 2018

  • Source:
    J Occup Environ Hyg. 15(8):588-597
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-340.47 KB]

  • Alternative Title:
    J Occup Environ Hyg
  • Description:
    The use of respiratory protection, an important component of personal protective equipment (PPE) in healthcare, is dependent on the hazard and environmental conditions in the workplace. This requires the employer and healthcare worker (HCW) to be knowledgeable about potential exposures and their respective protective measures. However, the use of respirators is inconsistent in healthcare settings, potentially putting HCWs at risk for illness or injury. To better understand respirator use, barriers, and influences, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers provided an opportunity to examine self-reported use of respirators and surgical masks for targeted hazards. The hazards of interest included aerosolized medications, antineoplastic drugs, chemical sterilants, high-level disinfectants, influenza-like illness (ILI), and surgical smoke. Of the 10,383 HCWs who reported respiratory protection behaviors, 1,904 (18%) reported wearing a respirator for at least one hazard. Hazard type, job duties, site characteristics, and organizational factors played a greater role in the likelihood of respirator use than individual factors. The proportion of respirator users was highest for aerosolized medications and lowest for chemical sterilants. Most respondents reported using a surgical mask for at least one of the hazards, with highest use for surgical smoke generated by electrosurgical techniques and ILI. The high proportion of respirator non-users who used surgical masks is concerning because HCWs may be using a surgical mask in situations that require a respirator, specifically for surgical smoke. Improved guidance on hazard recognition, risk evaluation, and appropriate respirator selection could potentially help HCWs better understand how to protect themselves at work.
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