Wearing a respirator is crucial for employees working in conditions where they could breathe in polluted air, vapors, or fibers. If you work in a hazardous area with harmful dust, fumes, gases, etc., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires you to wear respirators. You must conduct a medical examination and respirator fit test before wearing a respirator.
This blog aims to help you know more about respiratory diseases caused by hazardous materials and Respirator Fit Test to prevent fatal diseases. Southern Nevada Occupational Health Center (SNOHC) has been performing the Respirator Fit Test for more than 10 years, hope you enjoy the information in this blog.
The purpose of the Respirator Fit Test
The ultimate goal of a fit test is to make sure that the respirator forms an adequate seal with the user’s face to provide the intended protection.
Different reasons that diminish the effectiveness and fit of a respirator
- Weight gain or loss.
- Dental work or facial surgery.
- Significant scarring in areas that seal meets skin.
- Facial hair (beard, goatee, mustache)
- Glasses or protective eyewear.
When does the Respirator Fit Test need to be conducted?
- When a different style, model, make, or size of respirator will be used.
- When changes in face occur, that could affect fit, such as significant weight fluctuation, face surgery, face scarring, or dental work.
How long is a Respirator Fit Test good for?
The test takes about 15 minutes to be completed. It usually is conducted annually. After passing the test, the exact same make, model, style, and size of the respirator must be used on the job.
What does the Respirator Fit Test Cover?
The questionnaire will be reviewed by a Physician or a Licensed Health Care Provider( PLHCP) and offers a recommendation for the employee and employer.
The PLHCP’s recommendation mostly covers three items:
1. Whether the employee is medically fit to wear the respirator and if they suffer any medical limitations for using it.
2. If the employee needs further medical evaluations.
3. A statement indicating that the employer and employee have been provided with a copy of the recommendation.
How to get prepared for a Respirator Fit Test?
There are a few things an employee needs to do before their respirator fit tests begin:
- Choose a respirator. Picking a respirator for your job, you should consider what toxins you are exposed to, job responsibilities, time spent exposed, the concentration of the toxins, etc.
- The equipment must be NIOSH-certified. You need to bring the chosen respirator to the Fit Test.
- Bring protective equipment. You should bring any personal protective equipment (PPE) to the test that could interfere with the respirator’s seal. These items may include hearing protection, face shields, hard hats, coveralls, and safety glasses.
- Shave. Because facial hair can interfere with a respirator’s fit, OSHA requires you to be clean-shaven.
- Complete a medical evaluation questionnaire. OSHA regulates that you complete and bring a Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire (RMEQ). A physician or a licensed Health Care Provider (PLHCP) must review the RMEQ before the test.
If the worker/employee wears any other personal protective equipment (PPE) that could interfere with the respirator’s seal, they must bring those items to the Fit Test. This can include safety glasses, hearing protection, face shields, hard hats, and coveralls. There are some mutual rights for workers and employers at the workplace which you can read more about it in another topic “What Do Employees and Workers Need to Know about Occupational Health and Safety?“.
If the worker is cleared to wear a respirator, they will go through one of two fit tests:
- Qualitative fit test.
- Quantitative fit test.
What does a Qualitative Fit Testing cover?
It is a test that uses your reaction, taste, smell, or sense to an irritant to determine leak in the respirator facepiece. It tells you whether there are any holes or gaps in the mask seal or if your mask is in good working condition.
Four different qualitative tests are allowed by OSHA:
- Bittrex: leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
- Isoamyl Acetate: a banana-like smell.
- Saccharin: a sweet taste in your mouth
- Irritant Smoke: causes coughing.
Some exercises are performed for Respirator Fit Test for one minute
- Normal breathing
- Deep breathing
- Moving head side to side
- Moving head up and down
- Bending over
- Normal breathing again
If the worker/employee does not detect any irritation or smell during the mentioned first round of tests, the Respirator Fit Test is passed. The worker is safe to wear their respirator.
What does Quantitative Fit Testing cover?
Quantitative fit testing is the process to evaluate the exact amount of leakage into any tight-fitting facepieces. Instead of only relying on senses and bitter-tasting chemicals, this method is conducted by a machine calculating the measurements.
The respirator’s filter detects which agent is tested.
3 acceptable quantitative fit test methods By OSHA:
- Controlled negative pressure
- General aerosol
- Ambient aerosol
When the test is complete, each eligible employee is issued a card including the size, model and make of the type of respirator they got a passed Fit Test.
What Kind of Respirator Do you Need?
The working conditions may require you to wear a full face respirator or a half-mask respirator depends on the Assigned Protection Factor (APF). APF is a number to show the level of protection that a respirator can be expected to provide if it is used properly. While organizations have different standards for respirators, APF dominates all the other standards and is the base that employers must comply with them.
It is estimated that each year 12,000 people die due to work-related lung diseases. Respirator Fit Tests are an essential element in OSHA regulations which is easy to lose track of it. Respirator fit test is an important tool to keep your employees/workers safe and healthy from environmental hazards.
In this blog, we offered everything you need to know about the Respirator Fit Test and the most frequently asked questions by our clients at Southern Nevada Occupational Health Center (SNOHC). Here, we offer a wide and complete range of occupational health and worker’s safety services to help employees to be safe and achieve the best results. For more information about services performed at SNOHC, you can navigate through the menu of this website. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.