Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) are conducting a 12 month clinical trial to see whether a new mask fit technique is suitable for healthcare workers and students who cannot shave their beards for religious, cultural or medical reasons.
The reasoning behind the study is due to the increasing number of clinical staff required to wear an N95 mask.
Occupational hygienist in the RMH Respiratory Protection Program, Charles Bodas conducts those tests at the RMH and said he was seeing a number of staff with beards failing their mask fit test, which is what led him to explore this new technique.
“An under-mask elastic band beard cover, also known as the Singh Thattha technique, has been identified as a potential option that would enable the use of tight-fitting respirators for those unable to shave,” said Charles.
“We need all hands on deck as healthcare workers at the moment, and we had to come up with a practical solution that did not require a lot of training,” he added.
The RMH gained ethics approval to conduct the multi-faceted study to assess the effectiveness of this technique, using two disposable filtering face piece respirators that are available to Victorian healthcare workers.
“The aim of the study is to recruit over 60 participants, and we have over 30 already recruited,” said Charles.
The RMH respiratory protection program has been working closely with the Australian Sikh Doctors Association and other religious groups and healthcare organisations to help promote the study to any relevant groups.
The Victorian Department of Health is also supporting the study by encouraging referrals to the RMH and through ongoing collaborations with Worksafe, Safer Care Victoria, health services, universities and state-based infection prevention bodies.
For more information on the study, or how to enrol please contact the respiratory protection program by emailing RespiratoryProtectionProgram@mh.org.au.
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