Respirators are crucial for protecting workers from hazards such as harmful pollutants, insufficient oxygen, and respiratory diseases such as COVID-19. Respirator fit testing is not just essential for healthcare workers who are expected to interact with patients, but for workers in all industries.

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Respirator fit testing is required before an employee first starts wearing a respirator in the work environment. In addition to initial fit testing, additional fit testing is also required whenever there are changes that require an employee’s respirator to fit differently. Following the initial test, fit tests should also take place at least annually thereafter.

Let’s take a closer look at the importance of respirator fit testing and how it is more critical now than ever before.

The Purpose of Respirator Fit Testing

Fit testing confirms the fit of any respirator on the user’s face before it is used in the workplace. By confirming that there is a tight seal, this ensures that workers are receiving the expected level of protection. During fit testing, the specific make, model, style, and size of the respirator that is best suited are determined. OnSite Health focuses primarily on the fit of N95 respirators. A correct fitting respirator will seal with the face minimizing the contaminant leakage of outside pathogens into the user’s system. In addition, fit testing also provides an opportunity to check on problems with respirator wear and reinforces respirator training by having wearers review the proper methods of donning and wearing the respirator.

employee with respirator
There are many types of respirators, be sure you are using the correct one for your environment.

Methods

There are two methods when it comes to fit testing: quantitative and qualitative. A quantitative test uses measurements to numerically calculate how effective a respirator may be. A qualitative test involves the introduction of a vapor test agent into an area around the respirator user. If the user can taste the vapor through the mask then it is considered inadequate.

When it comes to fit testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, qualitative tests are the preferred method to preserving medical supplies such as the N95, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In a qualitative test, the N95 respirators can be reused whereas in quantitative, a hole is punched into the respirator and therefore it has to be disposed of after the test. Regardless of which test is performed, it is crucial that the test administers are highly trained and proficient to ensure safety and wellbeing.

Interested in Respirator Fit Testing?

With the significant increase in demand for respirators, there is also an increase in the number of workers who need a respirator fit test. To get things rolling, we will need the following information as prescribed by OSHA:

From the Employer:

  • A copy of the latest air quality testing report if employees are working in environments that warrant such testing. If you are uncertain if the substances in your environment require testing, please review OSHA guidelines regarding exposure limits.
  • The type and weight of the respirator to be used by the employee(s)
  • The duration and frequency of respirator use including use for rescue and escape
  • The expected physical work effort
  • Additional protective clothing and equipment to be worn
  • Temperature and humidity extremes that may be encountered
  • A copy of the written respiratory protection program (Standard Operation and Procedures)

From the Employees:

  • Prior to the fit testing, employees being tested will need to fill out an online Fit Test questionnaire. According to OSHA guidelines, the medical questionnaire shall be administered confidentially during the employee’s normal working hours or at a time and place convenient to the employee.
  • There must be no more than 3 days of beard growth the day of fit testing
  • There should be no food or drink consumed during the 15 minutes leading up to the fit test.

After receiving the completed questionnaires, OnSite Health will provide a statement to you and the employees regarding the employee’s ability to use the respirator. The statement will contain any limitations on respirator use related to the medical condition of the employee, workplace conditions in which the respirator will be used, and if there is any need for follow-up medical evaluations.

At OnSite Health, we specialize in providing customizable healthcare solutions through access to an on-site nurse. To learn more about respirator fit testing and the benefits of having an onsite nurse on staff at your company, contact us today to learn more.