Prior to 2020, Personal Protective Equipment or PPE may have been an insider term within the occupational health sphere that many outsiders were unfamiliar with. Over the past year, however, many people outside of the occupational health realm have become more acquainted with various types of masks, and respirator models. Although facial coverings have become more commonplace, respiratory PPE will continue to be a requirement in the workplace for many professions.
Simply put respiratory PPE is used to protect employees from harmful airborne particles such as smoke, dust, viruses or any hazardous materials and substances that can be inhaled. There are several types of respirators that can be used in the workplace. Respirators fall into two groups: unpowered and powered. Unpowered respiratory PPE relies on the wearer to draw air through the filter whereas powered respiratory PPE uses a motor to move air through the filter and supply the wearer with clean air.
For an employee to be able to use a respirator, they must have an initial respirator fit test and continue to do them annually thereafter to ensure that their respirator mask has a tight, fitted seal. A qualitative fit test is based on the wearer detecting leakage through the mask, using a bitter or sweet tasting aerosol. The qualitative respirator fit test includes several one-minute exercises including normal breathing, deep breathing, turning the head side to side and up and down. The employee will also need to demonstrate the ability to talk and bend over with a respirator on. A quantitative fit test is another type of testing that utilizes specialized equipment to conduct a measurement, typically in a laboratory testing chamber or with a portable testing device.
A wide range of industries require respirators for their employees, such as those in healthcare, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture and this has only been exacerbated over the past year. Currently, NMS health proudly works with employers from many different sectors who have employees who need respiratory PPE. Some examples of industries that we work with that require PPE include:
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