Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Industrial and Managements Systems Engineering

Committee Chair

Warren R. Myers

Committee Member

Kenneth Currie

Committee Member

Ziqing Zhuang


In the United States, under OSHA regulations, all respirators used in the workplace must be certified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Under current NIOSH standards, loose-fitting powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR) must provide a minimum operational flow of 170 liters per minute. The objective of this study was to characterize the breathing flow rates of nine health care workers during patient care activities typically performed in a hospital's intensive care unit. This characterization will be used to determine the feasibility of lowering the minimum operational flow rate of PAPRS used in health care settings.

Each participant wore a portable respiratory flow recording device during twelve simulated patient care activities. The patient care activities include: changing bedding, turning and positioning the patient, patient health history review, hooking up a cardiac monitor, inserting and starting an IV, drawing blood tubes, patient passive range of motion exercises, inserting setting up and removing a Foley catheter, bathing and turning the patient, performing CPR, and inserting and removing a breathing tube.

Of the nine participants, there were four males and five females. The minute volume (MV, L/min), mean inhalation flow (MIF L/min), and peak inhalation flow (PIF L/min) was calculated for each participant during each patient care activity. The mean MV, MIF, and PIF across all participants and patient care activities were 21, 50, and 86 L/min, respectively. Two-sample t-tests were performed to compare the effect of gender on MV, MIF, and PIF. There was a significant difference in MV, MIF, and PIF for males and females (α=0.05). An analysis of variance was conducted to compare the effect of participant and activity on MV, MIF, and PIF. Both participant and patient care activity had a significant effect on the mean MV, MIF, and PIF (α=0.05). A post hoc analysis of the effect of participant and activity on MV, MIF, and PIF was performed through a Tukey HSD test. The results of this study illustrate that lowering the required minimum operational flow of PAPRs may be feasible; however, participant does have a significant effect on breathing flow characteristics. Thus, further analysis is needed to incorporate, correlations between age, weight, body surface area, and body mass index.