Servicing staff at healthcare facilities (i.e. hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices), qualified RHP professionals will administer a Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT) under the OSHA respiratory protection standard (1910.134).
RHP’s fit testing is an efficient process for rapid fit-testing using your currently available respirators, as well as training designated person(s) within your staff to conduct fit-testing in-house moving forward should brand availability change.
Overview of the Fit Testing Process
Tight-fitting respirators must seal on the wearer’s face in order to provide expected protection. This includes disposable respirators (also called “filtering facepieces”). Therefore, 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.
QLFT is a pass/fail and relies on the user’s sense using one of four OSHA-accepted test agents:
- Isoamyl acetate (banana smell); only for testing respirators with organic vapor cartridges
- Saccharin (sweet taste); can test respirators with a particulate filter of any class.
- Bitrex® (bitter taste); can also test respirators with particulate filter of any class.
- Irritant smoke (involuntary cough reflex); only for testing respirators with level 100 particulate filters.
- Negative-pressure, air purifying respirators, as long as they’ll only be used in atmospheres where the hazard is at less than 10 times the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
- Tight fitting facepieces used with powered and atmosphere-supplying respirators.
When the brand of mask being used changes from one to another, if the person tested has had substantial weight gain or less, if they have had substantial dental work, or after substantial changes in facial contours (e.g. broken nose, jaw or facial surgery).
General recommendations are for the fit testing to be repeated annually. However, 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)).
The employer shall ensure that an employee using a tight-fitting facepiece respirator is fit tested prior to initial use of the respirator, whenever a different respirator facepiece (size, style, model or make) is used, and at least annually thereafter.
Related RHP Authored Documents
Respirators, Masks and Face Coverings, Oh My!
Benjamin Heckman, MPH, CIH
Masking our Emotions: An Anthropological Look at a New Abnormal
Tracie L. Rose / Fred Boelter, CIH, PE, BCEE, FAIHA
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