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HSA concerns over mask fit-testing

By Mindo - 11th Jan 2021

N95 Respirator With Stethoscope Close Up

Lack of fit-testing for respirator masks is identified in inspections of healthcare facilities by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) during the pandemic, according to documents seen by the Medical Independent under Freedom of Information law.

The HSA redacted parts of the documents as these inspections were on foot
of complaints.

On 5 October, a HSA inspector wrote to a healthcare facility CEO following an inspection on 24 September stating the need for fit-testing where employees were required to wear FFP2/FFP3 face masks (or other tight fitting respirators).

This was “an essential aspect of the respiratory protection programme”, according to the inspector, who requested proposals for face-fitting FFP2/FFP3 masks.

On 16 October, following an inspection on 13 October, a HSA inspector wrote to a healthcare facility stating that if tight-fitting respirators were required, “the selection of the appropriate respirator and its correct use must be ensured, including fit-test and training, including fit-check.”

Uncovered valved respirators “may not protect the wearer against splashes”.

The HSA had issued correspondence to HSE CEO Mr Paul Reid on 16 July regarding a hospital inspection on 4 July. It stated that “the biological agent risk assessment must be reviewed and updated” and the respiratory protection programme for the site documented.

“This must cover a prompt completion of the initial face fit-testing phase and the plan in place to facilitate ongoing requirements for face fit-testing.”

There were no mechanically ventilated rooms available on site. “This risk has been identified by the hospital and the request for negative pressure rooms is noted.”

In correspondence on 19 May to a hospital general manager, a HSA inspector in the north-west said fit-testing “should be carried out without delay”.

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