If you are working in nursing, manufacturing, construction, or other industries that are commonly affected by airborne hazards, the respirator fit test is probably not a new term to you.

Generally speaking, a respirator fit test is a test that will show whether a person can wear a tight-fitting respirator without leakage. The test must be conducted using precisely the same respirator, which should be worn by the worker, and when the worker needs to wear glasses or another protection when wearing the respirator, he or she also needs to wear them during the test.

Respirators are classified as either loose-fitting or tight-fitting. Since respirators cannot protect you if they do not fit tightly, the respirator has a tougher standard. OSHA requires respirator-fit testing only on tight-fitting respirators, and those respirators that do not depend on a tight seal around the face of a person do not undergo testing.

You know what a respirator is but do you know which your staff is going to need?

Qualitative V.S. Quantitative Respirator Fit Test

There are two significant types of respirator fit tests. It is either qualitative or quantitative respirator fit test. Here are the distinctions between the two respirator fit test.

Qualitative Respirator Fit Test

Qualitative Fit Test

A professional conducting a Qualitative Fit Test Photo Credit 3M

Qualitative fit testing is a pass / fail test technique that utilizes your sense of smell or taste or your response to an irritant to identify leakage in the face piece of the respirator. The real amount of leakage is not measured by qualitative fit testing. Whether the respirator performs or fails, the experiment is based on identifying your face piece leakage of the sample material. OSHA accepts four methods of qualitative fit testing:

  • Bitrex, which leaves a bitter taste in your mouth;
  • Irritant smoke, which can cause coughing;
  • Isoamyl acetate, which smells like bananas; and
  • Saccharin, which leaves a sweet taste in your mouth.

Half-mask respirators are usually used for qualitative fit testing-those that cover your mouth and nose. Half-mask respirators, as well as elastomeric respirators, can filter face piece respirators-often called “N95s.”

Quantitative Respirator Fit Test

To identify leakage, quantitative fit screening utilizes a device to assess the real quantity of leakage in the face piece and does not depend on your sense of taste, smell, or irritation. During this sort of fit test, the respirators used will have a probe attached to the face piece that will be connected by a hose to the device. OSHA accepts three quantitative fit testing techniques:

Quantitative Respirator Fit Test

Quantitative Respirator Fit Test Photo Credit Levitt Safety

  • Ambient aerosol
  • Controlled Negative Pressure
  • Generated aerosol

Quantitative fit testing is used for tight-fitting respirators.

Many employees need to wear prescription glasses or personal protective equipment, like safety goggles or earmuffs, while doing a job. If you fit into this category, then during the respirator fit test you must wear these items.  Wearing these items during testing ensures they do not interfere with the fit of the respirator.

Before using a respirator in the workplace, the fit of your respirator must be tested and retested annually to ensure that the respirator you are using still fits you. The testing utilizes the particular make, model, style, and respirator size you’re going to use.

While it may be easy to lose track of respirator fit tests, it is an essential element in compliance with OSHA. Furthermore, the respirator fit test is a vital instrument to keep your staff secure and healthy from environmental hazards. The OSHA page is an excellent tool if you want to learn more about the specifics of respirator fit testing.

References:

https://www.osha.gov/video/respiratory_protection/fittesting_transcript.html

Linda Rawson, is the Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, inventor of WeatherEgg, and the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

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