In search of a performing seal: rethinking the design of tight-fitting respiratory protective equipment facepieces for users with facial hair

Meadwell, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-7793-4395, Paxman-Clarke, L., Terris, D. and Ford, P. ORCID: 0000-0002-9607-3292, 2019. In search of a performing seal: rethinking the design of tight-fitting respiratory protective equipment facepieces for users with facial hair. Safety and Health at Work. ISSN 2093-7911

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Abstract

Background: Air-purifying, tight-fitting facepieces are examples of respiratory protective equipment and are worn to protect workers from potentially harmful particulate and vapors. Research shows that the presence of facial hair on users' face significantly reduces the efficacy of these devices. This article sets out to establish if an acceptable seal could be achieved between facial hair and the facepiece. The team also created and investigated a low-cost "pressure testing" method for assessing the efficacy of a seal to be used during the early design process for a facepiece designed to overcome the facial hair issue.

Methods: Nine new designs for face mask seals were prototyped as flat samples. A researcher developed a test rig, and a test protocol was used to evaluate the efficacy of the new seal designs against facial hair. Six of the seal designs were also tested using a version of the conventional fit test. The results were compared with those of the researcher-developed test to look for a correlation between the two test methods.

Results: None of the seals performed any better against facial hair than a typical, commercially available facepiece. The pressure testing method devised by the researchers performed well but was not as robust as the fit factor testing.

Conclusion: The results show that sealing against facial hair is extremely problematic unless an excessive force is applied to the facepiece's seal area pushing it against the face. The means of pressure testing devised by the researchers could be seen as a low-cost technique to be used at the early stages of a the design process, before fit testing is viable.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Safety and Health at Work
Creators: Meadwell, J., Paxman-Clarke, L., Terris, D. and Ford, P.
Publisher: Elsevier
Date: 23 May 2019
ISSN: 2093-7911
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1016/j.shaw.2019.05.001DOI
S2093791118300568Publisher Item Identifier
Divisions: Schools > School of Art and Design
Depositing User: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 17 Jun 2019 09:02
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2019 09:02
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/36821

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