Safely Return to the Workplace with the Right Respiratory Protection

Lynn Feiner, Contributor

COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon, and we are all adjusting to our “new normal.” In this environment, the dangers don’t discriminate by job or destination. Respiratory protection products that were once designed for certain workers, like clinicians, first responders, construction and manufacturing employees, are now essential for everyone.

Although face masks can now seem routine, some jobs require specific face masks or respirators, and these come with detailed donning and removal instructions. If we know and understand the proper ways to don and remove face masks and respirators, we are taking the first step to being more confident in our safer return to work and public spaces.

In this article, we are focusing on donning and removing techniques for a face mask, dual-layer face cover, disposable face shield, N95 disposable respirator and half facepiece respirator. It is important to note that some employers will have a written respiratory program, and it should include evaluation, training and fit-testing. Workers should have the opportunity to handle the disposable face shield or respirator; learn how to inspect it; don and remove it; have it properly fitted; and wear it in an uncontaminated environment.

These donning and removing techniques are only meant as a general guide and will differ with specific products. If you have questions, we recommend checking with your supervisor; reviewing the written respiratory program your employer may have in place; and checking OSHA or CDC guidelines.

Face Mask
There are two versions of face masks, a mask with one or two elastic headbands, and a mask with elastic bands that loop over the ears. When donning the face mask, users should follow these steps:

  • If using a face mask with one or two elastic straps:
    • If two straps, pull the lower strap over the head and position around the neck.
    • Pull the top or single strap over the head and position so it is on the crown (top) of your head.
    • If provided, fit the flexible band on the nose bridge by pressing down so that it conforms to the shape of your nose.
    • Lastly, users should ensure that the mask is snug to the face and covers the chin.
    • To remove, pull the top strap off first and then the lower straps.
  • If using a face mask with ear loops:
    • Secure the loops behind each ear.
    • If provided, fit the flexible band on the nose bridge by pressing down so that it conforms to the shape of your nose.
    • To remove, lift both the ear loops off the ears at the same time and then gently remove the mask from the face.

Dual-Layer Face Cover
For some, returning to work will require wearing a face mask for longer periods of time. Honeywell has created a dual-layer face cover made of a washable fabric that features a hidden pocket allowing the wearer to easily remove and replace a disposable filter.1 They can be used by consumers in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

The face covering’s base layer features seamless, three-dimensional knit construction using polyester, nylon and cotton that provides four-way stretch, minimizing gaps and enhancing comfort. It has a contoured design with adjustable ear loops and an adjustable nose clip for enhanced comfort, function and breathability for most adult face shapes and sizes. The face cover can block up to 95% of 3-micron-sized particles and 0.1-micron-sized particles when appropriately fitted.

When donning the dual-layer face cover, users should follow these steps:

  • Start by removing a filter from the wrapper, unfold the filter and gently pull both sides to open.
  • Locate the right (R) and left (L) labels on the filter wings and align the “R” and “L” bands on the inside of the face cover and slip each side under the band.
  • Next, hold the face cover under the chin with the nosepiece facing outwards.
  • Place one ear loop over the earlobe.
  • Holding the face cover against the face with one hand, use the other hand to place the second ear loop over the other earlobe.
  • Adjust tension and fit of the ear loops by sliding the bead on each side forward to tighten or sliding back to loosen.
  • Mold the nose area to the shape of the face by running fingertips of both hands from the top of the nose piece down both sides while pressing inward.

To remove the dual-layer face cover:

  • While holding the dual-layer face cover in one hand, use the other hand to remove each ear loop by lifting over earlobes one at a time, then lift and remove from the face.
  • Remove the single use filter and dispose of properly. To safely discard the used filter, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash.
  • Place the face cover in washing machine to clean.

Disposable Face Shield

For some, returning to work will require wearing a face mask for longer periods of time. This dual-layer face cover is made of a washable fabric and features a hidden pocket, allowing the wearer to easily remove and replace a disposable filter. (photo courtesy Honeywell)

For those that want to add a secondary layer of protection, they can utilize a Disposable Face Shield. The disposable face shield complies with U.S. government regulations for optical performance, splash and droplets, and includes an anti-fog coating to minimize fogging and visibility issues.2,3

The shield is designed to provide large coverage over the face and has an elastic band for extra comfort and near-universal fit.

When donning a Disposable Face Shield, you should follow these steps:

  • Make sure that the strap is pre-inserted through loop #1.
  • Slide the strap downwards through loop #2 and pull to tighten the strap.
  • Slide the strap upwards through loop #3 and pull tight to complete.
  • Next, bending forward, hold on to the face shield with both hands and expand the elastic with your thumbs and place the strap behind your head, so that the foam rests on your forehead.
  • Once the shield is situated, check to make sure it covers the front and sides of the face and no areas are left uncovered.

To remove, one should hold the face shield with his or her dominant hand to maintain its position on the face. Then pull the strap over the head, and while still holding the face shield in one hand, lift and remove the face shield.

N95 Disposable Respirator
N95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particles in the air. Particle sizes vary tremendously, and N95 respirators are tested by NIOSH to the most penetrating size particle, which is 0.075 microns, +.02. Honeywell’s DC301N95 respirator has not been tested or certified against any pathogens or viruses such as COVID-19. When properly fitted and worn, minimal leakage occurs around the edges of the respirator when the user inhales. When donning the Honeywell DC301N95 molded cup disposable respirator, you should follow these steps:

  • First, hold the respirator in the palm of your hand with straps facing towards the floor.
  • Next, hold the respirator under the chin with the nosepiece facing outwards.
  • Then pull the lower head strap around the neck below the ears and while holding the respirator in against the face with one hand, place the upper strap above the ears around the crown of the head
  • Place your hands on each side of the respirator and move slightly right, left, up and down, to adjust the position of the respirator and achieve the most optimal fit on the face
  • Mold the nose clip over your cheeks and bridge of the nose to obtain a tight seal.
  • Perform a user seal-check to ensure a good fit:
  1. Place both hands over the respirator–do not disturb the position of the respirator.
  2. Exhale sharply. A positive pressure should be felt inside the respirator.
  3. If you detect air leaking in readjust the respirator by:
    1. applying additional pressure on the nose clip to achieve a secure seal on the nose;
    2. adjusting the position of the respirator on your face; and/or
    3. adjusting the position of the head straps.
  • To remove the N95, you should hold the respirator with your dominant hand to maintain its position on the face. Then pull the top strap over the head, followed by the bottom strap and, while still holding the respirator in one hand, lift and remove the mask.

Half-Mask Respirators

Respiratory protection products that were once designed for certain workers, like clinicians, first responders, construction and manufacturing employees, are now essential for everyone. (photo courtesy Honeywell)

Workers in industrial settings may need to wear a half facepiece respirator designed to minimize breathing of airborne contaminants. Users should always inspect a half facepiece respirator before each use. If any parts are missing or damaged, replace those parts or the entire facepiece. If you are using a replaceable pad style filter, make sure the pad filter is in the filter holder and facing the correct direction. Then thread the filter assemblies onto the cartridge connectors. If you are not using pad filters, but using P100 filters or filter cartridge combination instead, simply thread the filter or cartridge onto the cartridge connectors in the facepiece.

To don the half facepiece respirator, follow the steps outlined in the manufacturer’s user instructions for the respirator you will be wearing. The following steps are a general guide:

  • Adjust the upper and lower head straps to their full outward position.
  • With one hand holding the respirator, place chin inside the chin cup and the top of the respirator over the nose.
  • With the other hand, position the cradle suspension on the center of your head. Remove any slack in the upper straps by pulling the two end tabs back and towards the ears.
  • Fasten the bottom straps behind the neck, making sure it is under any hair. Remove any slack in the bottom straps by pulling the end tabs back towards the front.
  • Next, tighten the upper head straps in small, equal increments to ensure the top half of the respirator is tightened evenly and centered on the face.
  • Then tighten the lower head straps by pulling evenly on the end straps in the back of the respirator until the entire respirator is snug, comfortable and centered on your face.

Once the facepiece is in position, perform a user seal-check to ensure the mask is in good working order.

To perform a positive pressure seal-check, place the palm of your hand over the exhalation valve, so it is completely sealed and exhale gently. If there is a good seal, the facepiece will be pushed away from your face very slightly. To perform the negative pressure seal-check, place the palm of each hand over the two filters, so they are completely sealed, and inhale. Hold your breath for five seconds. If there is a good seal, the facepiece will be pulled inward toward your face.

To remove the respirator, simply unfasten the bottom straps and then loosen the upper straps. Use one hand to hold the facepiece and lift the mask off.

Although we cannot cover instructions for all respiratory protection, this article covers a few types that may be used more frequently as we return to work.

Conclusion
Honeywell is working to implement solutions that help provide a safer and healthier way for people to return to work, school and public spaces. Having the right respiratory protection and knowing how to properly wear it allows us to adapt to our new normal, get back to work and start reshaping the future as we know it. IHW

1Note: Not FDA approved and not intended for medical use.

2Note: The disposable face shield complies with ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015 Clause 8.1.2 droplet & splash hazard-face shields for U.S. and with EN 166:2001 Clause 7.2.4 protection against droplets & splashes of liquids for E.U.

3Note: The disposable face shield is FDA Registered

Additional Links & Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/respiratoryprotection/

https://www.honeywell.com/en-us/shop/safety

https://safety.honeywell.com/en-us/products/by-category/head-eye-face-protection/face-shields/honeywell-disposable-face-shield

https://safety.honeywell.com/en-us/products/by-category/respiratory-protection/disposable-respirators/one-fit-molded-cup-niosh

https://www.honeywellsafety.com/Products/Respiratory_Protection/Honeywell_North_HM500_Series_Half_Mask.aspx?site=/europe