When it comes to choosing N95 respirator masks, healthcare workers at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) have voted the three-panel flat-fold N95 mask the most comfortable.
A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia by the RMH Respiratory Protection Program team has compared the performance of four N95 respirator types, with respect to the quantitative fit test pass rate and healthcare worker-rated usability and comfort.
The research led by RMH staff consultant anaesthetists, Dr Irene Ng and Professor Daryl Williams, supported that quantitative fit test results should be incorporated into procurement decision making.
“We hope these findings will guide respirator model selection by stockpiling N95 masks that confer the highest respiratory protection among our staff, and also provide the best usability and comfort, which can potentially affect compliance with recommended use.”
“The program was designed to minimise the risk of healthcare workers being exposed to respiratory hazards as an essential infection control measure,” Dr Ng added.
Staff were asked to undergo quantitative fit testing with at least three N95 respirator types.
Four to six weeks after fit testing, participants were invited to complete a survey on the usability and comfort of the masks they passed.
A total of 2161 healthcare workers underwent quantitative fit testing during the study period. The overall fit test pass rates were 65.0% for the semi-rigid cup respirators, 32.4% for the flat-fold cup respirators, 59.2% for the duckbill respirators and 96.4% for the three-panel flat-fold respirators.
“Healthcare workers rated the three-panel flat-fold respirator’s comfort and overall usability significantly higher than those of semi-rigid cup, flat-fold cup, and duckbill type N95 respirators,” Dr Ng said.