Respirators are not normally required for work in a TB laboratory. However, they may be recommended after a risk assessment if cultures are being manipulated within a TB-containment laboratory. Even if not worn regularly, respirators must be available in laboratories where culture manipulations are performed in case an accidental biohazard (such as a spill) occurs outside the BSC. Respirators should be included as part of a laboratory’s spill clean-up kit.
Respirators should never be used as a substitute for a properly maintained and functioning BSC.
N95 (United States Standard NIOSH N95) or FFP2 (European Standard EN149:2001) respirators should be worn if indicated by a risk assessment. Such respirators are lightweight, disposable devices that cover the nose and mouth and filter 94–95% of particles that are ≥0.3–0.4 µm.
If respirators are used in a laboratory, all staff should be instructed and trained in their proper use and fitting, and in their limitations. Ideally, staff should undergo a fi t test to ensure leakage does not occur. Respirators should not be used by people with facial hair. Respirators must be stored in a convenient, clean, dry and sanitary location, and must not be worn outside of the laboratory. Once a respirator has been put on, under no circumstances should the wearer touch the front of it. Staff should not place the respirator under their chin or on their head when answering the phone or talking.
Respirators must be inspected before every use to ensure that there are no holes other than the punctures around the staples, and to ensure that no damage has occurred. (Enlarged holes resulting from ripped or torn filter material around staple punctures are considered to be damage.) Straps and valves must also be checked. A damaged respirator must be discarded and replaced immediately.
Surgical masks are not respirators, are not certified as such and do not offer significant protection to personnel performing aerosol-producing diagnostic tests for TB. They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling small infectious aerosols and therefore should not be used.