Respirator Fit Test Services & Fit Test Training
RHP Risk Management occupational health and safety professionals regularly perform Quantitative Fit Testing (QNFT) and Qualitative Fit Testing (QLFT) for employers looking to provide their employees the correct PPE and fit to protect them from respiratory hazards within all industries, including the construction industry, healthcare and general industry workplaces.
Fit testing is required to be completed under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) before any user wears a respirator on the job as detailed in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134.
What Is a Respirator Fit Test?
If OSHA standards require your employees to wear respirators, they’ll need to do annual respirator fit tests to ensure their equipment meets those safety standards. A respirator fit test tests the seal between a person’s face and their respirator’s facepiece. The fit test is used to find a respirator that fits the user’s face best to ensure their safety in the workplace. Once the fit test is complete, the exact make, size and style respirator that passes the test should be worn while on the job.
There are two types of respirator fit tests — qualitative and quantitative — that should be used depending on the type of respirator being tested.
Quantitative Fit Testing vs Qualitative Fit Testing
Qualitative Fit Testing (QLFT)
QLFT is a fit testing method that follows a pass/fail process and relies on the user’s senses and is used to validate a tight-fitting respirator seal on the wearer’s face in order to provide expected and required protection. The employee is expected to complete a user seal-check for positive pressure, negative pressure and the manufacturer’s recommended user seal-check procedures. During the test, the employee being fitted is required to recite a Rainbow Passage that is used to test the respirator seal.
A qualitative fit test may only be used to fit-test:
- Negative-pressure, air-purifying respirators, as long as they’ll only be used in atmospheres where the hazard is less than 10 times the PEL.
- Tight-fitting facepieces used with powered and atmosphere-supplying respirators.
The QLFT relies on the test subject/employee’s senses using one of four OSHA-accepted test agents:
- Isoamyl acetate: Isoamyl acetate has a banana smell and is only for testing respirators with organic vapor cartridges.
- Saccharin: Saccharin has a sweet taste and can test respirators with a particulate filter of any class.
- Bitrex®: This agent has a bitter taste and can also test respirators with the particulate filter of any class.
- Irritant smoke: Irritant smoke causes an involuntary cough reflex and is only for testing respirators with level 100 particulate filters.
During the QLFT, employees will be exposed to the test agents to determine if particles are able to pass through any gaps between the respirator and the face. This tests how secure of a seal the respirator provides.
Quantitative Fit Testing Services (QNFT)
The quantitative fit test (QNFT) respiratory fit testing method uses an instrument that attaches to a respirator to numerically measure its effectiveness of the amount of leakage that may be taking place. The QNFT test does not rely on the employee’s senses or reaction to irritants and uses three different OSHA-approved methods:
- Generated aerosol: An aerosol is dispensed into a booth or test chamber and any leaks into the respirator are measured.
- Ambient aerosol: Ambient aerosol utilizes laser technology to gauge aerosol concentrations without having to use a test chamber.
- Controlled negative pressure: A fixed vacuum is created on the facepiece with special adapters that then measure airflow or leak rate.
During a QNFT, the employee should wear the respirator for five minutes prior to a test administration that is performed in a fit testing hood. The employee must also perform a sensitivity test in which they wear the respirator while breathing normally, taking deep breaths, speaking and while touching toes or jogging in place.
When Do You Need Respirator Fit Testing Services?
Annual fit testing is recommended, when new hires are oriented, when the brand of respirator desired changes if the user has had substantial weight gain or loss, substantial dental work, or after substantial changes in facial contours (e.g. broken nose, jaw or facial surgery).
OSHA has issued Temporary Enforcement Guidance for the Healthcare Industry providing discretion for enforcement of the annual fit test requirements as long as specific criteria are met (1910.134(f)(2)).
Does Your Organization Need a Respiratory Protection Program?
At healthcare facilities, RHP professionals work with your staff to create and implement recordkeeping programs and a comprehensive written respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of OSHA’s respiratory protection standard (29 C.F.R. § 1910 and 29 C.F.R. § 1926). A review and audit of existing programs may also be requested and performed.
As desired, RHP occupational health professionals can develop a written respiratory protection program or may audit an existing written respiratory protection program thereby keeping your business in full compliance of OSHA’s written respiratory protection program for any situations in which permissible exposure limits (PELs) of airborne contaminants are exceeded or risks of occupational exposures.
Typical occupational respiratory hazards we see in workspaces may be generated during painting operations, welding/grinding/metal-working operations, working with silica-containing materials, chemical exposure hazards (gases, vapors, mists and biological hazards), nuisance dusts, smoke, and atmospheric hazards such as those found in confined spaces.
How to Prepare Your Organization for Respirator Fit Testing Services
It’s important to ensure your employees are prepared for their fit tests when the time comes. Make sure everyone is on the same page and inform them of the respirator fit test requirements. Here are a few things your employees should prepare before their fit test based on OSHA requirements:
- Medical evaluation: Each employee will have to be medically evaluated prior to the fit test. The evaluation will ask basic questions about their health, especially in regard to any trouble breathing or other conditions that a respirator may impact.
- Clean-shaven face: Facial hair can impact the way the respirator fits against the face. Facial hair prevents the respirator from having a proper seal against the face. If any employees have facial hair, they’re required to shave it before their fit test.
- Bring the respirator: Each employee should be issued a respirator depending on their job duties and what toxins to which they’ll be exposed. Employees should be reminded to bring their respirator to their fit test.
- Other personal protective equipment (PPE): Any prescription glasses or other PPE that’s required for the job or is worn daily should also be brought to the respirator fit test. PPE like safety goggles, hard hats, face shields or hearing protection can interfere with a respirator’s seal when worn together. To ensure the respirator fits properly while worn with other PPE, your employees need to bring their equipment to the test.
Fit Test Certification
RHP professionals will train your designated person(s) on your team to conduct fit testing in-house as new hires are added, as leaved employees return or as respirator brand availability change or becomes undesirable. Upon completion of fit testing training, RHP will issue a fit test Certificate of Competency so your designee may perform future qualitative fit testing procedures.
RHP Risk Management fit testing services and training in healthcare facilities (i.e. hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care, dental offices) follows OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (1910.134) and is compliant with the recommendations of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
Respiratory Protection Program Training Services
An RHP occupational health professional will ensure your designated staff member is properly trained to conduct their own in-house QLFT testing. The designated members of your staff will be trained on how to properly select the size of respirators and ensure a tight seal under OSHA guidelines. RHP professionals provide employers assurance that workers are trained on how to correctly don a respirator, how to position a respirator on the face, how to adjust the strap tension and how to determine effective and acceptable fit prior to selecting a respirator.
RHP professionals work with your administrators to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program to protect your workers against adverse health effects caused by the inhalation of contaminants in the work environment. OSHA standards require that each respiratory protection program includes a written plan detailing how the program will be administered and also demonstrate that the program is enforced and updated as necessary.
Looking For Respirator Fit Testing Services Near You?
RHP’s experienced evaluators and trainers come to you. Our onsite respirator face fit testing is an efficient process that takes place at your workplace or business with the flexibility to fit test any number of employees on a single shift or over multiple shifts.
Through assessments and face fit testing, the RHP occupational health and safety professional’s onsite respirator fit testing will mitigate the risk of workplace hazards in the healthcare industry between your employees and patients. RHP’s development and implementation of respiratory protection programs and training will keep your business in compliance with OSHA standards.
Contact RHP Risk Management for an initial consultation and learn how to incorporate the RHP respirator face fit testing services into your programs, training and employee safety protocols.
Related RHP Authored Documents
Respirators and Face Coverings, Oh My!
Benjamin Heckman, MPH, CIH
Covering our Emotions: An Anthropological Look at a New Abnormal
Tracie L. Rose / Fred Boelter, CIH, PE, BCEE, FAIHA
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RHP Risk Management is a leader in the field of Industrial Hygiene, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Built Environment, Risk Management, Dose Estimation & Analysis, and Exposure Simulation Testing. Our highly trained and sophisticated team of professionals work together seamlessly on small and large projects. Our roster includes certified industrial hygienists, public health scientists, risk assessors, certified safety professionals, field staff, an engineer, an anthropologist, an economist, certified paralegals, and support staff.
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Content Reviewed & Verified by Our Fit Testing Experts
Jacob Persky, MPH, CIH – 20 years of experience as an industrial hygienist and environmental consultant. He has a broad-based knowledge of exposure assessment and exposure reconstruction principles
Tracie Rose – 20 years of experience working with clients and scientists to explore factors of risk.