Respiratory fit testing is a new world for many people and they don’t know what to expect. This post outlines what should happen when dealing with a reputable company for a qualitative or quantitative fit test.

Watch this video to learn what should happen during a qualitative and quantitative fit test.

Before a respirator fit test:

Regardless of the fit testing method you choose, you’ll need to complete a health screen form to ensure you are physically fit to wear and use a respirator.

You must be clean shaven where the mask seals to the face as per CAN/CSA Z94.4. This is a requirement for every time you use the respirator. The tester should not fit test anyone with facial hair.

What to expect during a Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT):

Equipment:

The equipment used when fit testing a disposable respirator, like an N95 or KN95, includes a:

  • testing hood, and
  • bitter (bitrex) or sweet (saccharin) challenge agent/aerosolized spray.

Note: Some testers use smoke and banana oil without a hood for certain respirators but not for 95% particle filtering respirators like N95s or KN95s.

qualitative fit test

The tester:

The tester must confirm that:

  • the mask is comfortable
  • it provides a consistent seal
  • you know how to use the mask properly, and
  • you can perform a user seal check — the check done each time you put on the mask.

The sensitivity test:

The tester needs to make sure you can taste the agent with a ‘sensitivity test.’ If you can’t taste the agent without the respirator, you will not be able to check for leaks with the respirator.

The tester will squeeze 10 sprays into the hood and ask if you taste anything.

If you do not, the tester will spray another set of 10 sprays and ask again. If you still don’t taste it, they will apply a final set of sprays.

Depending on when you tell them you taste the agent, they will record your sensitivity as being either 10, 20 or 30. This is important so you can verify the necessary concentration during the test while wearing the respirator.

Once you’ve put on the respirator:

Once the sensitivity test is complete, you’re ready for the actual fit test where you’ll be wearing the respirator and the hood.

The tester will start by spraying the same number of sprays from the sensitivity test specific to you: 10, 20 or 30.

It’s important that they spray the agent around in the hood and not directly on the respirator. The agent needs to be in the air that can leak into the mask. If it’s sprayed directly onto the respirator the concentration in the air is greatly reduced.

Test exercises:

You must complete all test exercises wearing the hood, even the sensitivity test. You also need to breathe through your mouth with your tongue extended. This ensures you can taste the challenge agent if you are exposed to it.

You cannot close your mouth or breathe through your nose during the tests.

The tester will ask you to complete several exercises wearing your respirator like normal breathing, deep breathing, turning head side to side, nodding head up and down, talking out loud, bending forward at the waist and normal breathing once again at the end.

During this time the tester will continue to spray the agent into the mask every 30 seconds to keep the concentration up, but use half the number of sprays — 5, 10 or 15 depending on your sensitivity.

Determining a pass or fail:

Before taking the hood off at the end of the test, you must break the seal on the respirator to see if you can taste the agent. This confirms the respirator was doing its job.

If you taste the agent at any time during the test, it means there is a leak and the respirator has not passed the test.

Remember the make and model

It’s important to note the make, model and size of respirator with which you passed. This is the only type of disposable respirator you should use going forward.

The tester will record this information and provide you with a card for your reference.

What to expect during a Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT):

Equipment:

Quantitative fit testing a disposable respirator, like an N95 or KN95, requires a fit testing machine like the Sibata MT-05 or AccuFIT 9000.

These machines count the microscopic particles inside and outside of the respirator to make sure it fits and works properly.

quantitative fit test

The tester:

The tester must confirm that:

  • the mask is comfortable
  • it provides a consistent seal
  • you know how to use the mask properly, and
  • you can perform a user seal check — the check done each time you put on the mask.

Any reusable respirator and adapter must be cleaned and sanitized between each fit test. Disposable respirators like N95s can be discarded.

During the quantitative fit test:

Once you have chosen a comfortable mask, have it on properly and performed your seal check, you’re ready to start the fit test.

The fit test is a series of seven exercise designed to recreate the head movement you would normally do when wearing a respirator. The exercises are normal breathing, deep breathing, turning head side to side, nodding head up and down, talking out loud, bending forward at the waist and normal breathing once again at the end.

The fit test machine will prompt you when to start and stop each exercise.

Determining a pass or fail:

As you’re going through each of the exercises the fit test machine will draw a sample and count the microscopic particles to make sure the respirator is working and has a good seal.

It will automatically determine a pass or fail based on these results. It’s important not to move or adjust the respirator once the test has started.

Remember the make and model

It’s important to note the make, model and size of respirator with which you passed. This is the only type of disposable respirator you should use going forward.

The make and model of your respirator will be entered into the machine by the fit tester and saved as part of the fit test record file. The tester may also provide you with a record or card for your reference.

Not getting short changed during a fit test:

Whichever method of fit testing you choose, the tester should be able to explain the process and answer the questions you may have.

Remember the test is about finding the right mask for your face shape. It ensures a good seal and protects you from your environment.

Don’t take chances with your respirator fit test, book with Levitt-Safety and find out why we’re Canada’s leader in fit testing.

Ready to book a fit test?

Tony Guarino

Market Segment Manager - Confined Space

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