What is a Respirator Fit Test

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 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 this includes N95 masks on the job as detailed in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134.

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. Fit testing is imperative to ensure that a tight-fitting respirator (N95) properly fits onto an employee’s face, creating a secure seal, effectively reducing the risk of exposure to airborne contaminants and infectious disease.

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 (N95) 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 N95 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).

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 to infectious disease.

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.

Overview of Respiratory Face Fit Testing Methods

Qualitative Fit Testing Services (QLFT)

QLFT is a fit testing method that follows a pass/fail process and relies on the user’s senses (taste, irritation, smell), and is used to validate a tight-fitting respirator seal on the wearer’s face in order to provide expected and required protection. An employee needs to fit test using a respirator that is the same make, model, and size as the one that will be worn on the job while also wearing any other required equipment (e.g. safety goggles, earmuffs).

RHP professionals provide employers insurances 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. The test subject/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 test subject employee 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 at less than 10 times the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
  • Tight-fitting facepieces used with powered and atmosphere-supplying respirators.

The qualitative fit test (QLFT) relies on the test subject/employee’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 the particulate filter of any class.
  • Irritant smoke (involuntary cough reflex); only for testing respirators with level 100 particulate filters.

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 test subject/employee’s senses or reaction to irritants and uses 3 different OSHA-approved methods:

  • Generated Aerosol – an aerosol is dispensed into a booth or test chamber and any leaks into respirator are measured.
  • Ambient Aerosol – uses laser technology to measure aerosol concentrations inside and outside of a mask without having to use a test chamber.
  • Controlled Negative Pressure – a fixed vacuum is created on the facepiece with special adapters that then measure air flow or leak rate.

During a quantitative fit test (QNFT), the test subject/employee should wear the respirator for 5 minutes prior to a test administration that is performed in a fit testing hood and a sensitivity test is performed with normal breathing, deep breathing, while speaking and while touching toes or jogging in place.

How Often Do Respirator Fit Testing Services Have to be Repeated?

Annual fit testing is recommended, when new hires are oriented, when the brand of respirator/mask 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)).

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure an employee is wearing and has access to a properly tight-fitting facepiece respirator that has been 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.

How to Prepare Your Organization for Respirator Fit Testing Services

To stay within compliance of OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.134 (g)(1)(i), all employees wearing respirators must be medically evaluated, and clean-shaven to ensure a tight-fitting seal around the nose and mouth. An employer shall not permit respirators with tight-fitting facepieces to be worn by employees who have facial hair (beard, mustache, sideburns) that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with valve function, or any condition that interferes with the face-to-facepiece seal or valve function.

Respiratory Protection Program Training Services

RHP occupational health professional will ensure your designated staff member is properly trained to conduct their own in-house qualitative fit (QLFT) testing. The designated members of your staff will be trained on how to properly select the size of respirators/masks, ensure a tight seal under OSHA guidelines.

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 inhalation of contaminants or infectious disease in the work environment. OSHA standard (29 CFR 1910.134) requires that each respiratory protection program to include 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?

Through assessments and face fit testing of your employees for respirators/masks and the RHP occupational health and safety professional’s onsite respirator fit testing will mitigate the risk of workplace hazards and infectious disease (COVID-19) transmission 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 for an initial consultation and learn how to incorporate the RHP respirator face fit testing services into your programs, training, and employee safety protocols. We can be reached at rhprisk.com/contact-us/ or call (773) 867-6010.

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