Respirator Fit Testing
The Connecticut Fire Academy offers both Qualitative and Quantitative Fit Testing
Overview of the Fit Testing Process
Tight-fitting respirators must seal to the wearer’s face in order to provide expected protection.
This includes disposable respirators (also called “filtering facepieces”).
Fit testing is required in the US by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) before a user wears a mandatory respirator on the job, and must be assessed at least annually.
In addition, fit tests should be performed:
- Whenever a different size, style, model or make of respirator is used.
- When any facial changes occur that could affect fit, such as significant weight fluctuation or dental work.
Qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test method that uses your sense of taste or smell, or your reaction to an irritant in order to detect leakage into the respirator facepiece. Qualitative fit testing does not measure the actual amount of leakage. Whether the respirator passes or fails the test is based simply on you detecting leakage of the test substance into your facepiece.
Qualitative fit testing is normally used for half-mask respirators - those that just cover your mouth and nose. Half-mask respirators can be filtering facepiece respirators - often called "N95s" - as well as elastomeric respirators.
Quantitative fit testing uses a machine to measure the actual amount of leakage into the facepiece and does not rely upon your sense of taste, smell, or irritation in order to detect leakage. The respirators used during this type of fit testing will have a probe attached to the facepiece that will be connected to the machine by a hose.
Quantitative fit testing can be used for any type of tight-fitting respirator.
As part of employer’s respiratory protection requirements, employees must be medically cleared to don a tight-fitting respirator, which includes surgical N95 masks, and the mask must be fit tested to the user.
The medical evaluation determines the worker’s ability to use a respirator. It is required to be completed before the worker is fit tested and before the decision is made that they are required to use a respirator in the work environment. It is mandatory that the worker be evaluated by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional (PLHCP) who provides a written recommendation regarding their ability to use a respirator.
The PLHCP needs to be an individual who’s legally permitted scope of practice (i.e., license, registration, or certification) allows him or her to independently provide, or be delegated the responsibility to provide, some or all of the healthcare services required in the medical evaluation.
Workers who need to wear prescription glasses or personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles or earmuffs, while performing a job, must wear these items during the fit test to be sure they don't interfere with the respirator's fit.
Facial hair, like a beard or mustache, can affect your respirator's ability to protect you. Anything that comes between your face and the respirator's seal or gets into the respirator's valves can allow contaminated air to leak into the respirator facepiece and you will not be protected. For example, if you have long hair, make sure it doesn't get between the respirator seal and your face because this can allow contaminated air to leak into the respirator.
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Reference FIT Test information