Respirator Fit Testing
OSHA and State OSHA Agencies require employers to fit test workers who must wear respirators on the job
A respirator that fits you properly protects your health and safety
A respirator can’t protect you if it doesn’t fit your face. It’s that simple.
Respirators need to be fit tested to make sure that the employee has the correct size mask to protect them. We will help you write a respiratory protection program and fit test your employees.
Certain respirators, known as tight-fitting respirators, must form a tight seal with your face or neck to work properly. If your respirator doesn’t fit your face properly, contaminated air can leak into your respirator facepiece, and you could breathe in hazardous substances. So before you wear a tight-fitting respirator at work, your employer must be sure that your respirator fits you.
Your employer does this by performing a fit test on you while you wear the same make, model, and size of respirator that you will be using on the job. That way, you know that your respirator fits you properly and can protect you, as long as you use it correctly.
In addition, before you use a respirator or are fit-tested, your employer must ensure that you are medically able to wear it.
What is a fit test?
A “fit test” tests the seal between the respirator’s facepiece and your face. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to complete and is performed at least annually. After passing a fit test with a respirator, you must use the exact same make, model, style, and size respirator on the job.
There are two types of fit tests: qualitative and quantitative
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. There are four qualitative fit test methods accepted by OSHA:
- Isoamyl acetate, which smells like bananas;
- Saccharin, which leaves a sweet taste in your mouth;
- Bitrex, which leaves a bitter taste in your mouth; and
- Irritant smoke, which can cause coughing.
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. There are three quantitative fit test methods accepted by OSHA:
- Generated aerosol;
- Ambient aerosol; and
- Controlled Negative Pressure.
Quantitative fit testing can be used for any type of tight-fitting respirator.