September 4th, 2015 8:12 am ET - Jaclyn Krah, M.A
Every day is a day to think about worker safety. But today, on our annual N95 Day (09/04/2015), we embrace our dedication to proper respiratory protection practices, shining it with a bit of elbow grease, and displaying it at the very front line of our priorities. Today we find the time necessary to focus on respiratory protection and make sure that we are tuned into the best resources available. Whether you are participating today as an N95 user who understands the benefit of learning about your respirator, as a dedicated respiratory protection program manager, or safety manager determined to create a workplace culture that embraces proper respiratory protection practices – we are here to provide you with the tools you need.
These tools are the focus of N95 Day 2015, inspired by the recent release of our Respiratory Protection Toolkit . This toolkit was developed to assist hospitals in developing and implementing effective worker respiratory protection programs, with an emphasis on preventing the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases to healthcare personnel.
Respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are used as a last line of defense when exposures cannot be reduced to an acceptable level using other methods. In healthcare settings, risks of work-related infections from airborne pathogens pose an ongoing challenge. Because every healthcare facility should develop policies and procedures that address the control methods used at their institution, NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration worked closely together to provide a guide for respiratory protection administrators in hospitals. This guide includes the multiple approaches necessary for infection prevention and control, guidelines for isolation precautions, types of respiratory protection, and more considerations about proper respirator use.
The Joint Commission (an organization that accredits and certifies healthcare institutions) and NIOSH partnered to build another tool to be used hand-in-hand with the Respiratory Protection Toolkit. This educational monograph,Implementing Hospital Respiratory Protection Programs: Strategies from the Field, is intended to stimulate greater awareness and knowledge of the importance of effective respiratory protection programs in hospitals as well as provide examples of strategies for overcoming common implementation challenges.
A NIOSH and subject matter expert as well as the authors of the Joint Commission will conduct a webinar to address these tools as part of the N95 Day activities. After the event, the presentation will be posted on the NIOSH website for those who were not able to attend. We also created several infographics (see one above) to be used as educational tools based on the information in these two resources.
The novel H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009 and the Ebola outbreak in the past year underscored even more the necessity of protecting healthcare workers when new and novel diseases emerge, or when diseases once localized in distant parts of the world reach our shores. NIOSH and its colleagues are engaged in the healthcare industry to provide the best guidance to keeping these workers safe while they perform their vital job duties. In light of the national and international concern of the Ebola threat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of which NIOSH is a part, created training modules for how to safely don (put on) and doff (take off) PPE in order to minimize the risk for disease transmission. Being N95 Day, NIOSH would like to specifically recommend the N95 and Gown video, though there are several videos in this series that are great educational tools for building a safer workplace in healthcare facilities.
In a similar vein and as part of our extensive response to support healthcare worker safety during the Ebola epidemic as part of the broader CDC public-health response, NIOSH has issuedGuidance on Personal Protective Equipment To Be Used by Healthcare Workers During Management of Patients with Ebola Virus Disease in U.S. Hospitals, Including Procedures for Putting On (Donning) and Removing (Doffing). This web page is intended to provide the CDC recommended guidelines, and the NIOSH-approved respiratory protection products meeting the criteria outlined by the CDC to help prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
While healthcare remains an important occupational sector in the NIOSH research portfolio, we recognize that N95 respirators are used in many occupations and by people of every size, shape, gender, and activity level. That is why we are constantly expanding our research to ensure that we meet the needs of N95 respirator users in every situation. For example, recent NIOSH research has shed light on the concern that use of N95 filtering facepiece respirators during pregnancy might make breathing more difficult and possibly harm the woman and her fetus. You can find more about this study on the NIOSH science blog as well as in this new video interview with the project officer, Dr. Raymond Roberge.
We appreciate your participation in N95 Day, showing your dedication to occupational safety through following and sharing our social media on Twitter (@NIOSH, @NPPTL), Facebook, and Instagram (nioshusa). Please use today as an excuse to put aside the other distractions of your busy schedule and delve into our resources. Have a happy and safe N95 Day!
Jaclyn Krah, MA, is a Health Communications Specialist in the in the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory.