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The Effect of High-Efficiency Particulate Air Respirator Design on Occupational Health: A Pilot Study Balancing Risks in the Real World

Enid K. Eck and Ann Vannier
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
Vol. 18, No. 2 (Feb., 1997), pp. 122-127
DOI: 10.2307/30142401
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30142401
Page Count: 6
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The Effect of High-Efficiency Particulate Air Respirator Design on Occupational Health: A Pilot Study Balancing Risks in the Real World
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Abstract

Objectives: To quantify specific factors believed to increase healthcare worker (HCW) risk for contaminated sharps injuries (eg, visibility, communication, and range of motion); to quantify the degree to which respirators of various designs impacted those same factors; and to assess HCW opinions about the suitability of selected respirators with respect to patient care and user compliance criteria. Design: Sharps injury data from seven hospitals were analyzed to determine the potential contribution of visibility, communication, and range of motion to reported injuries. Healthcare workers representing various clinical specialties and physical characteristics were examined at baseline and while wearing five different respirators to quantify the impact of respirator design on visibility, communication, and range of motion. Healthcare workers were interviewed and completed a survey assessing each respirator. Setting: Hospital and ambulatory-care settings. Participants: Population-based and convenience sample. Results: Communication, visibility, and range of motion were found to affect contaminated sharps injuries significantly. Selected high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) respirators were found to have a negative impact on each of these variables. Healthcare workers involved in the study also reported compliance criteria problems with selected HEPA respirators, which may effect implementation of respiratory precautions adversely. Conclusion: Current HEPA respirators, because of their design, potentially increase the risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure through sharps injuries. We conclude that mandating respirators without regard to the potential impact of their design to the sharps injuries may be counterproductive to HCW safety, because they may increase, rather than decrease, overall occupational risk to HCWs.

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