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Improvements in Powered Air Purifying Respirator Protection in an ABSL-3E Facility

Charles L. Balzli, Joseph Kozlovac, David E. Swayne
Applied biosafety 2015 v.20 no.4 pp. 175-178
air, animals, avian influenza, biosafety, breathing, engineering, human resources, occupational health and safety, pathogens, risk reduction, safety equipment, snags, strength (mechanics)
The study of and experimentation with zoonotic pathogens such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) requires risk mitigation strategies including laboratory engineering controls and safety equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and proper practices and techniques. Incidences of potential exposure should be investigated promptly and corrective actions taken. Two incidences occurred at ABSL-3E facilities in 2014. These involved a tear in a breathing tube and separation of a breathing tube from a fitting joint on powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs). The events, as well as the occupational health response, outcomes, and investigations into the incidents, are described in this article. While no exposure-associated infections occurred, changes and improvements were implemented to prevent future incidents. The changes and improvements to PAPRs included the addition of breathing tube covers, reinforcement of breathing tube and fitting joints, and notifying the manufacturer of product deficiencies. Improvements to animal isolators were also completed to prevent potential snags or tears to breathing tubes. Updated standard procedures for PAPR assembly and use were instituted and thoroughly emphasized in the annual training of BSL-3E personnel. These incidents demonstrate the need for continuous evaluation and updating of biosafety procedures and equipment. While thorough investigation coupled with corrective actions and improvements exemplifies proper procedures for prevention, the prompt and expedient response of personnel during these incidents is a reflection of routine and comprehensive biosafety training.