Respirators are used in situations that pose a high-risk for exposure to infectious aerosols. The most commonly used respirator in the health care facility is the N95 respirator, shown in the image on the right. An N95 respirator should be used when collecting specimens from patients with known or suspected cases of active tuberculosis. In a microbiology laboratory, a respirator should be used when it is probable that aerosols might be released in the biosafety cabinet at substantial levels as a result of the manipulation of the potentially infectious specimen.
Health care workers (HCW) are screened for medical conditions by a physician prior to using respiratory protection.
Annual fit-testing and training on proper usage of the N95 respirator is required. Fit testing ensures a good face seal can be achieved. Each time the respirator is worn, the wearer performs a user-seal check to ensure adequate respiratory protection.
HCW who, for medical reasons, cannot use N95 respirators and men with beards or other facial hair that would interfere with the seal between the face and the respirator must use a different type of respirator that offers sufficient aerosol protection but does not require fit-testing. However, annual training on proper usage is required.