Department of Health

The Singh Thattha trial

Supporting healthcare workers who are unable to shave due to religious, cultural, or medical reasons.

Key messages

  • The Singh Thattha trial supports healthcare workers and students who are unable to shave due to religious, cultural or medical reasons.
  • It uses a new mask fit technique that aims to allow healthcare workers to complete a fit test.
  • The trial is open to all Victorian healthcare workers and health students.
  • Once you have been fit tested, you will be able to use the Singh Thattha technique, and your health service will be supported to undertake a local risk assessment.
  • Register by contacting the trial team on 9342 5590 or RespiratoryProtectionProgram@mh.org.au.
  • If you are experiencing issues accessing the Singh Thattha trial or using the technique in your workplace, please contact the Department of Health via the form at the bottom of this page

A trial is underway in Victoria to support healthcare workers and students who are unable to shave due to religious, cultural or medical reasons.

The Singh Thattha trial uses a new mask fit technique that aims to allow healthcare workers to complete a fit test. Being fit tested is currently a respiratory protection standard.

The trial is led by The Royal Melbourne Hospital but is open to all Victorian healthcare workers and health students.

Fit testing a face mask 

Respiratory protective equipment, including face masks like N95 and P2 respirators, help provide a safe environment for healthcare workers.

Under current respiratory protection standards, anyone required to wear a respirator must complete a fit test. The clinical requirement to undertake a fit test is to be clean shaven for the fit test. 

The purpose of fit testing is to ensure a face mask fits the wearer and provides protection against airborne risks like COVID-19. A fit test determines which mask model and size can form a safe seal on the wearer’s face.

The Singh Thattha technique 

To provide more healthcare workers the opportunity to be fit tested, the Department of Health is supporting The Royal Melbourne Hospital to undertake the Singh Thattha trial.

The Singh Thattha technique that is used in the trial allows those who are unable to shave for medical, cultural or religious reasons the ability to attempt fit testing. 

It involves using an elastic band to cover the beard to create a smooth surface, which is then tied on top of the wearer’s head. The respirator mask is worn with the seal formed on the band.

The trial will help to build evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the Singh Thattha technique.

What the Singh Thattha trial involves

Healthcare workers will need to attend an initial fit test and training session at The Royal Melbourne Hospital to learn how to apply the Singh Thatta technique. This will take up to four hours. 

Following participation in the trial and a successful fit test, you'll be able to use the Singh Thattha technique to work or study in your health service in areas that have been identified in a local risk assessment process.

During the trial participants will be asked to complete surveys to monitor their progress, and will be required to do repeat fit tests throughout.

A risk assessment will need to be done by the employing health service. All health services are strongly encouraged to facilitate eligible workers to participate in this trial. If any worker is barred from accessing work or study because their employing health service does not wish them to participate in the trial, they are urged to make contact with the Department of Health using the contact form on this page.

Alongside the trial, the Department of Health is funding an implementation study to further develop and assess the feasibility, acceptance and ongoing roles and responsibilities of implementing the Singh Thattha technique. It will research the impact on communication, hearing and thermal comfort, as well as expanding training in the technique and helping health services do their risk assessments.

Trial timeline 

The trial is running for 12 months, ending in March 2023.

Anyone participating in the trial should be able to work and complete study until March 2023 when the trial concludes, and during the evaluation period while we find a more permanent solution.

After this time, the endorsement of the Singh Thattha technique will depend on the findings and evidence from the trial and other research.

Participate in the trial

The trial is open to all Victorian healthcare workers and health students. They should register interest with The Royal Melbourne Hospital Respiratory Protection Program team and let their employer know:

Healthcare services are expected to support their staff to participate and will need to do a risk assessment. The Royal Melbourne Hospital team and the Department of Health can support health services to undertake a risk assessment and ensure access to the technique. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The Department’s endorsement of the technique will depend on the findings and evidence from the study and other research. Once we are confident that the technique provides a safe shield for both the wearer and the people around them, and the Department endorses the technique, we expect that health services will follow suit. 

  • The Victorian health system is devolved. Each health service will determine the use of the technique based on individual’s risk assessment, location and type of work and thus there may not be consistency across the sector. The Victorian government has established a framework so that all health services support workers to take part in the trial, using the Singh Thattha technique. The department will work directly with the health service and their workforce to ensure the method can be used. 

  • There is no reason individuals should be unable to find work or placements as the trial takes place. As we become aware of instances where people are being prevented from participating, we will speak directly to the health service and support the healthcare workers or students to join the trial.

  • No student should be prevented from finishing their work placement due to mask requirements. We are encouraging any student who is not being facilitated for a placement to contact us. We are first encouraging all health services to facilitate participation in the trial. If a health service refuses, we will work with the relevant university to facilitate that student to find placement elsewhere.

Contact us

  • The Department of Health (the department) is committed to protecting your privacy. The department collects and handles information relating to enquiries about the Singh Thattha Implementation Trial for the purpose of responding to enquiries. A contact form has been developed for the purpose of centralising enquiries and to enable a departmental representative to respond in a timely manner. 

    The contact form will ask you for your name and your contact details so that we may contact you to discuss your enquiry.  The contact form will also include a section for you to submit your enquiry.  Please do not include any identifying information regarding any third parties in this free text section.   

    In order to appropriately respond to your enquiry, we may share information we collect with external parties such as The Royal Melbourne Hospital who is conducting the Singh Thattha Trial and WorkSafe Victoria to understand any issues or concerns that are raised in relation to the Trial, or the reason why you are unable to participate in the Trial. Your name and contact information will not be shared with any third parties.  

    If you do not provide us with all the information requested in the contact form we may not be able to provide a personalised response to your enquiry.

    For more information on the department’s privacy collection, please refer to the department’s privacy policy

    You may access your information that you provide to the department. The department can be contacted via email: VicRPP@health.vic.gov.au or you may contact the department’s Privacy Unit by emailing privacy@health.vic.gov.au or by telephone on 1300 024 759.

Reviewed 07 October 2022

Health.vic

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