Do you wear a respirator for work? Were you fit tested for it? If you haven’t been, you should be!
A respirator fit test is an essential component of your respiratory protection program.
Anyone who wears a tight fitting respirator during the course of their normal work day – or anyone who wears one to perform emergency response activities – should be fit tested to make sure the facepiece provides an effective seal. That seal (or ‘fit’) is your assurance that your respirator will provide the proper level of protection when required. The fit test not only helps verify that you are using the proper make, model and size of respirator, but also serves as a training tool, a way to demonstrate proper use, and a time to assess respirator comfort. Respirators that require a fit test include filtering facepieces (N95), half masks, full facepieces, and SCBA’s
There are 2 types of Respirator Fit Tests used in Canada.
- Qualitative fit testing (QLFT) is a pass/fail method where a respirator user detects a challenge agent to determine fit.
- Quantitative fit testing (QNFT) uses an instrument to measure the amount of leakage into the facepiece to determine fit. It doesn’t rely on your sense of taste, smell, or irritation to detect leakage.
Either method of respirator fit test shall be completed prior to using your assigned respirator for the first time, shall be repeated every 2 years as a minimum, and when conditions such as weight gain or loss warrant a change in respirator size. The results of your fit test should always be recorded.
If you wear additional PPE or prescription eyewear on the job, it should be worn during your fit test. Earmuffs, hardhats, visors, or even heavy clothing can interfere with the way your respirator fits. Your respirator fit test can help you understand how all of your PPE works together. Respirator users are also required to be clean shaven during their fit test and during respirator use.
Both qualitative and quantitative respirator fit testing protocols are described in CSA Z94.4-11 “Selection, Care, and Use of Respirators.” Both are acceptable and can be performed by your employer or a service provider with the proper training, equipment and experience, however given the stakes and superior results, we highly recommend QNFT.
If you need assistance creating, implementing, or managing your Respiratory Protection or Fit Testing program, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today – and you can learn more about our fit testing services here.