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Knowledge at Work - UL Workplace Health & Safety

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Occupational Health

Respiratory Protection Responsibility Helps Maintain Healthy Workplaces

August 14, 2014 - Posted by Lisa Pompeii, Ph.D. COHN-S

There’s a simple tool that can help keep healthcare workers from contracting or spreading infection. It’s the respirator. Most of us have seen or used one of these physical barriers to keep airborne infections like H1N1, tuberculosis, or SARS at bay. But did you know that respirators are effective only when used properly? Even the simple donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) process can, if performed incorrectly, expose healthcare workers to disease-causing agents. An insufficient seal or improper fit can allow pathogens to sneak through. Finally, some workers don’t have access to the appropriate kind of respirator, and some even have to reuse the ones they do have.

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Lisa Pompeii, Ph.D. COHN-S

Lisa Pompeii is an associate professor at the University of Texas, School of Public Health. She is a certified occupational health nurse, as well as an epidemiologist. Her research involves injury and illness prevention in health care workers including musculoskeletal injury, workplace violence, and respiratory protection. Dr. Pompeii has 25 years of occupational health nursing experience. She and her colleagues from NIOSH, AAOHN, and ANA have worked to develop training materials to prepare occupational health nurses to serve as their company’s respiratory protection program administrator. This team is also working to expand this training to healthcare workers who are at risk for being exposed to respiratory hazards on the job. This training will educate healthcare workers about their employer’s roles and responsibilities for administering a respiratory protection program in their workplace, as well as the worker’s roles in this program to ensure they protect themselves against respiratory hazards on the job.

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