Respiratory Protection Essentials: Preparing Health Care Employees for the Pandemic

Houston Medical Times

Valerie Butera, a Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, authored an article in the Houston Medical Times titled “Respiratory Protection Essentials: Preparing Health Care Employees for the Pandemic.”

Following is an excerpt:

In March 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“NOISH”) published the results of a multi-year surveillance study examining the efficacy of respirator use in health care facilities where airborne transmission of disease is likely. The findings of the study are alarming – the evidence collected during the study indicated gaps in hospitals’ respiratory protection policies and wide-spread failure by health care employees to use respirators correctly, even in hospitals with satisfactory respiratory protection policies. More specifically, the NOISH study revealed that many employees were confused about when to use a respirator and how to properly use one and opted to simply use a surgical mask for protection instead. But respirators and surgical masks are designed to protect against different hazards. Whereas a surgical mask protects patients from an employee’s respiratory secretions and protects employees against large-droplet splashes or spray of bodily fluids from patients, a respirator is designed to protect employees by providing a tight seal against the skin and filtering out a wide range of airborne particles.