How do you know your respirator fits?

July 23, 2014

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New respirator purchased for worker after fit test

You might think your respirator fits, but you could be wrong.

Recently I talked with a worker in a film production studio where props and artwork are created. He and his coworkers recently took part in an on-site respirator fit test from Actsafe, BC’s safety association for entertainment industries.

“In my case, the mask was much too small and didn’t even go below my chin,” said the worker, describing what he learned. “I upsized to one that fit properly. The respirator face piece must fit over the nose and under the chin, and should make a seal that doesn’t allow air in or out.”

He needs protection against a number of airborne contaminants that could be found in the shop, depending on what projects people are working on.

“We have many different airborne hazards including particulate swarf (sawdust, metal/plastic filings, plaster dust, fibreglass shavings, etc), and various chemical fumes (fibreglass resins, polyfoam compounds containing ammonia, adhesives, paints, and solvents),” he said. “Flammable and volatile substances are stored in fireproof cabinets.”

Respirators are a second line of defence after other engineered controls.

“We have three rooms equipped with elaborate air extraction systems which filter/exhaust fumes. These are ceiling/wall vent duct systems with large-volume fan extractors and replaceable filters,” the worker said.

“We have a paint room (paints, solvents, adhesives); a foam room (polyfoam and foam-latex moldmaking); and a hot room (fibreglass resins/dust, plaster dust, combustion fumes, solvents, adhesives). Workers are required to turn on the ventilation system when working in any of these areas. The main shop area also has a large rooftop air intake vent and ceiling fans throughout to provide fresh air and mitigate dust/fumes in the air.”

Ready for use

All shop workers are supplied with their own personal – fitted and labelled – respirators.

“When not in use, they’re stored in sealed plastic bags. We have a supply of new filter cartridges that workers replace regularly according to manufacturer guidelines,” he said.

“Asthma and lung problems can be brought on by years of repeated low-level exposure to many of the toxins involved. Workers can suffer long-term serious damage to lungs if proper precautions are not taken.”

For more information, read Breathe Safer: How to Use a Respirator Effectively and Start a Respirator Program.

More training available for dementia care

July 16, 2014

Photo credit: Felizberto on Flickr

Photo credit: Felizberto on Flickr

More training is now available to long-term care workers in BC who work with people who have dementia.

It includes a focus on “person-centred care” and other safety strategies for workers in facilities that provide 24-hour assistance to elderly, disabled, and terminally ill patients who live there.

This new program for workers is the next phase of what started as a WorkSafeBC pilot project in 2012 and 2013, using material created by the Alzheimer Society of BC.

WorkSafeBC passed the pilot to SafeCare BC – a new industry safety association created in February 2014 for long-term care workers. SafeCare is now delivering the dementia care program throughout BC, after checking in with industry to hear what workers and employers needed.

“At the beginning of our journey, we conducted a training needs assessment with industry,” said Jennifer Lyle, SafeCare BC’s executive director. “We went out and asked employers and front line workers what they saw as needs. Dementia care was one of the top three priorities identified in that survey – both for employers and front line workers.”

The training aims to minimize risk of violence to workers while enhancing quality of care for a vulnerable – and growing – population. Today, there are up to 750,000 Canadians with some form of dementia, and that number is expected to double in the next 15 years.

Dementia affects each person differently, and some people have aggressive outbursts caused by fear, confusion, or any number of reasons.

“By learning about the disease, adapting the person’s surroundings and changing the way we communicate with the person, aggressive responses may be preventable,” reads the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Violence in health care is one of the top three causes of injury to workers – along with overexertion and slips, trips, and falls.

What is a person-centred approach?

“A person-centred approach is very much about respecting the person you’re delivering care to and being sensitive to their needs and wants and history,” Jennifer said. “It may be that you’re dealing someone who’s had a history of abuse for example – and when you’re walking in to provide care for a person, you may be walking into a trigger situation and that’s not pleasant for the person.”

Workers document preferences and behavioural triggers on each patient’s care plan and use “safety huddles” during shift changes.

“They can be done at shift transitions, where people get together and communicate things really quickly, so it’s a heads-up when you’re going into someone’s room to provide care,” Jennifer said. “It comes down to communication.”

Training sessions will be offered throughout the province to accommodate workers in different regions. Thanks to Jennifer for telling me about it.

How do you know your respirator fits?

A properly fitted respirator protects workers from exposure to dusts, viruses, and other airborne contaminants. That’s why ensuring a good fit is very important.

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