ESSENTIAL KNOWLEDGE FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS ON RESPIRATOR MASKSAlinda Jansen - March 12, 2020
We can all view a lot of footage from Healthcare Workers combatting the Covid-19 pandemic. It's on every news outlet and I’m sent personal footage from friends in Healthcare as well.
I’m trained and educated in training Healthcare Workers on safe and proper use of Respirator Masks and that's why some footage of medical personnel trying to protect themselves is very worrying to me. Too often I’m seeing evidence of Healthcare Professionals risking their own safety while taking care of Covid-19 patients because they aren't using their Respirator Mask like they should.
We desperately need our hospital staff as fit and safe as possible during this outbreak. Therefor I'm sharing my knowledge on how to properly use Respirator Masks to optimise your safety and especially share what you should not do when wearing a Respirator Mask.
Note that I have no affiliations with any organisation producing or providing Respirator Masks.
First, you need to understand that Respirator Masks only protect if they are tightly fitting your face and thus create an air seal. If air is able to bypass the seal, you are not protected.
Second, Respirator Masks and a Surgical Masks have different functions.
Surgical Mask are worn to protect others from your expelled microdrops and to protect the wearer from splashes and sprays of fluids whereas Respirator Masks are designed to protect the wearer from airborne particles.
If a Respirator Mask does not have a Valve (to make breathing out easier) the wearer is also protecting others. Valveless Respirator Masks work both ways whereas Valved Respirator Masks do not protect others from what you breath out.
Based on the footage I’ve seen, please take note of these practical tips to optimise your safety;
Air Seal to Protect
Do not wear a Surgical Mask underneath your Respirator Mask. Anything in between your face and the Respirator Mask impairs the seal.
If you want to double up on protection, wear the Surgical Mask over your Respirator Mask.
Note to all men and I can’t stress this enough, shave!
Bearded men wearing a respirator aren’t doing themselves any favours as there is no air seal whatsoever. You need to be as smoothly shaved as possible.
Do not hang your mask under your chin. Please stop doing this forever. It is always unsanitary, but during an outbreak it’s plain dangerous. For yourself as well as for others. To follow that comment also do not reuse your Respirator Mask.
Once removed you need to consider it contaminated and dispose the equipment immediately followed by your hand wash protocol.
Respirators can be used for up to 8 hours as long as you keep them on your face. When breathing becomes hard, the mask is saturated and needs to be changed as soon as possible. When the mask becomes moist or soiled you need to change it as soon as possible as well.
Test your Gear
Always test the air seal of your Respirator mask after adjusting it to your face by covering it with both hands and breath out firmly to check for any air leaks. Do not enter a hazardous area without checking your protective equipment.
Watch this video for a visual instructions on how to wear, adjust, test and remove your Respirator Mask safely.
Depending on your country there are two ways, FFP and N, to describe the level of protection a respirator provides.
You can come across FFP1, FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99 or N100 in your hospital. These codes tell you the extend of the Respirator Mask’s filtering efficiency;
FFP1 has a maximum inward leakage of 22% and a filtering efficiency of 78%
FFP2 has a maximum inward leakage of 8% and a filtering efficiency of 92%
FFP3 has a maximum inward leakage of 2% and a filtering efficiency of 98%
N95 has a maximum inward leakage of 5% and a filtering efficiency of 95%
N99 has a maximum inward leakage of 1% and a filtering efficiency of 99%
N100 has a maximum inward leakage of 0.03% and a filtering efficiency of 99,97%
This means that an FFP3 Respirator Mask filters out at least 98% and an N95 Respirator Mask filters out at least 95% of the airborne respirable particles including viruses.
Using a Respirator Mask doesn’t guarantee 100% safety, so optimise their protection by using them correctly.
Take care of yourself like you do of others and stay strong.
I deeply respect what do you for us and wish you the best of luck!