TSTC Programs Teach Students About Respirator Usage

(WACO, Texas) – What people wear on their faces to protect themselves has taken on greater importance in the time of COVID-19.

“We train our students how to determine which type of respirator is proper for various tasks,” said Mark Wilfert, an instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Occupational Safety Compliance Technology program in Waco. “When they get into the industry, it will be a responsibility that some of them will be required to perform.”

Wilfert said students learn how workers need to be protected from airborne hazards in two industrial hygiene classes. In the program’s fourth-semester Safety Program Management course, students learn how to write a respiratory protection plan.

“Our students are required to fit test each other using qualitative methods while wearing respirators,” Wilfert said. “They also are required to disassemble and reassemble the respirator for proper cleaning.”

A respirator is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as personal protection equipment that blocks people from inhaling dangerous chemicals, dust, gases, smoke and other substances. Respirators can range from masks worn in the health care environment to heavy equipment used by firefighters.

OSHA sets guidelines on how respirators should fit over the face, along with their storage, maintenance and disposal.

“Quantitative fit testing requires the use of a machine, which is typically done by other trained professionals,” Wilfert said. “It is, however, usually the responsibility of safety personnel to make sure certain people are trained on respirator use. Discussing facial hair and company policy will be included in the training.”

The N95 respirator is the one most commonly used in the health care field.

“We teach personal protection equipment and handwashing as the first things in the lab in their Applied Nursing Skills class,” said Marchelle Taylor, TSTC’s Vocational Nursing program director in Breckenridge. “This is done before they go to clinicals to protect the patients, families and themselves before they ever go out into the real world.”

The Better Business Bureau has issued a scam alert regarding fake masks being sold online. The agency said people buying them are typically doing so from online retailers they have not shopped with before. The agency said the temporary websites are ways for scammers to get names and credit card information. If masks are ordered, they may not make it into the hands of consumers, according to the agency.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.