A win for Fit Testing !

01-May-2020

ASMOF NSW has been advocating strongly for weeks that NSW Health applies the appropriate and necessary fit testing requirements of the Australian Standard AS1715, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) and the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare for P2/N95 masks.

After two weeks of ASMOF advocating on this issue with the Ministry and our members pushing this at a local level, we have had a small but important win. The CEC has issued new advice on Fit Testing yesterday to the effect that there will be a trial (Phase 1) at Sydney LHD (SLHD) and Hunter New England LHD (HNELHD) of fit testing in the high-risk areas of anaesthesia and ICU.

Within these environments, it would focus on clinicians who are caring for patients who are COVID-19 positive or symptomatic and who are required to administer Aerosolised Generating Procedures (AGPs) individually or as a clinical team.

Staff who are caring for COVID positive or symptomatic patients who are required to apply PPE for contact and droplet precautions, which includes a surgical mask, will not require fit testing.

Thank you to all our members who have supported us in pushing this issue. Special acknowledgement goes to Dr Paul Pham and the anaesthetics team at JHH for their hard work and advocacy and their assistance to ASMOF in progressing this matter 

Whist it does not go as far as we want and we will keep pushing to address the remaining concerns of members - it is a good start and the Ministry has made a commitment that this process will inform the development of an NSW implementation plan for fit testing for other staff in other clinical situations.

Why is fit testing important?

Without correct fit testing, members may use masks that do not provide an effective seal, potentially exposing them to COVID-19 when undertaking aerosol generating procedures or working for prolonged periods with critically unwell patients, as the masks that they are wearing are not the right size or shape for their face.

We accept that fit testing must also be used in conjunction with fit checking prior to any possible exposure. Fit testing also has the very significant advantage that it familiarises the person with the physicality of donning and doffing PPE, which can never be learned from a training video, well before using it in exposure-prone circumstances.

PPE (including masks) are used as a control measure to minimise a risk, thus PPE must be provided to workers and, amongst other requirements, be a suitable size and fit and reasonably comfortable for the worker.

If you have any questions please contact ASMOF via the web page at https://asmofcovid19.org.au/ppe or via allocation@asmof.org.au