You may have heard some buzz around what's called the Singh Thatta Technique.
The Singh Thatta Technique involves individuals with facial hair using a wide elastic band to cover their beards, potentially enabling them to wear tight-fitting respirators like N95s/P2s.
The concept was conceived by a UK research led by Professor Gurch Randhawa from the University of Bedfordshire and Dr Rajinder Pal Singh. They were seeking a solution that would allow doctors with beards to wear tight-fitting respirators. Specifically Sikh, Jewish and Muslim communities, who tend to have beards for religious reasons.
Photo credit: SBS
Is the Singh Thatta Technique Effective?
As it stands, the only published study (as far as we know) using the Singh Thatta Technique demonstrated 5 fit test passes (on 5 participants) using the quantitative fit test method. There is no way to demonstrate any type of statistical analysis with only 5 participants.
Notably, the study also used the qualitative fit test method to assess 27 participants with a reported pass rate of 25 out of 27. It's worth noting that the subjective qualitative fit test method is considerably less reliable than the objective quantitative fit testing method, raising questions about its extensive use in this study. Qualitative fit testing relies on the user to report whether or not they can taste a bitter substance while quantitative testing uses a machine to calculate an actual numerical fit factor.
Unfortunately, such a small study over a short period does not yield enough evidence to support a deviation from all international respiratory protection standards - including AS/NZS 1715:2009, ISO 16975-3, HSE and OSHA - that state one must be clean shaven anytime they wear a tight-fitting respirator. (Read more about facial hair and respirators here.)
In addition to the lack of evidence, another potential issue we see is the likelihood of individuals inconsistently applying the beard wrap in the same way each time. In a controlled trial, the wrap is applied meticulously, but this may not always be the case in real-world scenarios, particularly when users are in a hurry.
Which brings us to the next question.
Has Australia Adopted the Singh Thatta Technique?
As far as we know, the Singh Thatta Technique has been adopted by NSW, WA and SA for healthcare workers and clinical students only.
In Victoria, this technique isn't yet approved or endorsed.
The Victorian Department of Health is collaborating with The Royal Melbourne Hospital to conduct a trial aimed at assessing the safety, feasibility, and effectiveness of the Singh Thatta technique.
The trial procedure includes participants undergoing an initial quantitative fit test while utilising the elastic band, followed by a comprehensive 33-point skills and training session, which takes approximately 4 hours to complete.
If participants successfully complete the trial (and pass fit tests), Victorian healthcare services may authorise them to work or undertake placements in areas that have undergone a risk assessment.
Healthcare professionals and clinical placement students engaged have the opportunity to participate in the trial by contacting 9342 5590 or emailing RespiratoryProtectionProgram@mh.org.au.
The Australian Institute of Australia's RESP-FIT program does not support the use of this technique. You can read their position statement here.
There are fit testers in Victoria, distinct from the RMH trial, who are advertising and conducting "bearded fit tests" tests using the Singh Thatta technique despite its lack of approval in that state.
This means that the results of such fit tests are invalid under the AS/NZS 1715:2009 standard (which states that wearers of tight-fitting respirators must be clean-shaven, including when getting a fit test).
The bottom line is this. Under all international fit testing protocols and standards, there is no such thing as a "bearded fit test."
Are there ANY facial hairstyles I can sport?
Yep, check these out. As long as the hair doesn't cross the seal of the facepiece, you're good to go.
If you have any questions about what you've read here, email us at email@example.com or call 0428 630 109.
Are there any respirators you can wear with facial hair?
Loose-fitting PAPR. Photo Credit: JSP
Yep, there are respirators folks with facial hair can wear.
These are called loose-fitting powered-air purifying respirators (PAPRs). Learn more about PAPRs here.
Pun intended :-)
The Singh Thatta Technique involves wrapping beards in a wide elastic band to potentially allow those with facial hair to achieve a seal when wearing tight-fitting respirators.
There is insufficient research and data to fully support its use and ensure wearers with facial hair are adequately protected.
The technique is endorsed by NSW, WA and SA for healthcare workers and clinical students.
The technique is NOT ENDORSED in Victoria. If you get a fit test using the technique (outside of the RMH trial), the results are invalid.
There is a trial going at at RMH in Victoria using the technique in healthcare settings.
The AIOH's RESP-FIT program does not recommend the use of the Singh Thatta Technique.
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