Content Coordinator, SHP Online

June 6, 2017

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3M’s Alan McArthur on Respiratory Protective Equipment

In May, 3M hosted a webinar titled ‘PPE Use Within a Healthcare Environment’, as part of the science-based technology company’s free Safety Spotlight Webinar Series.

The webinar, which focused primarily on respiratory protective equipment (RPE), was jointly presented by Alan McArthur, UK technical services supervisor for the 3M Personal Safety division, and Jo Cobley, clinical services manager for the 3M Infection Prevention division.

SHP followed up with Alan afterwards for an exclusive interview on the topic.

What are some hazards facing healthcare professionals?

Hazards include infectious airborne particles, such as droplets containing viruses like influenza, or airborne particles expelled by a tuberculosis patient. Diathermy smoke can also pose a hazard in theatres.

How can RPE help, and what is its place within guidance documents?

RPE can help reduce exposure to fine airborne particles containing infectious agents, thereby reducing the risk that the healthcare worker will become infected. This is why guidance within the healthcare environment calls for the use of FFP3 disposable respirators, or other types of respirators with equivalent protection, when carrying out certain activities with certain patients.

Could you give some examples of these activities?

If we take the example of guidance around influenza, not all patient contact requires the use of RPE. However, certain aerosol-generating procedures are listed, and when these are being administered the guidance requires the use of FFP3 or similar respirators.

What role does personal protective equipment (PPE) have to play when it comes to dealing with special circumstances, such as an influenza pandemic?

Although influenza pandemics are rare, their impact on healthcare organisations are potentially severe. Therefore, detailed plans and guidance are in place. Provision of appropriate PPE is a key aspect of the national pandemic influenza strategy.

What are the challenges of managing a fit testing programme within the healthcare sector?

The largest challenge is the sheer number of people who may need fit testing. Therefore, it’s important to take time to identify only those people who really need fit testing, through considering what activities they are likely to do that will require the use of a tight-fitting respirator. As a fit testing programme develops, it’s important to identify who is going to conduct the testing, and to ensure they have the right competence and the time to manage the programme.

What kinds of policies are needed to ensure correct use, handling and potential re-use of RPE?

The use of reusable RPE in the healthcare setting needs careful consideration. Single use respiratory products are often used to avoid risks of cross contamination. Where reusable equipment is used, adequate cleaning and disinfection regimes must be established, training must be given and storage locations where products will not become damaged or contaminated must be made available.

What has 3M got planned for the next webinar in this series?

My colleague Simon Field, a technical specialist at 3M, will host the next webinar in our Spotlight Safety Webinar Series, which will run from 12.15 to 13.00 on 14 June, titled ‘Introduction to PPE Validation’. Simon will discuss topics including when and why to use validation techniques; involving your workforce; recording your findings; and validation methods, such as fit testing.

We’ve received great feedback from these webinars so far, so we hope plenty of people will join us for this next one, too. All these webinars are free, so I’d encourage everyone to register and share the information with colleagues.

For more information, or to register for any of the free webinars, visit

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