Levitt-Safety Blog

How to pass a respirator fit test

Jonathan McCallumMarket Segment Manager: Occupational Health, Industrial Hygiene & Environmental MonitoringMay 8, 2018

The title of this post might seem a bit misleading, but we get asked “how do I pass a respirator fit test?” a lot.

The first thing to do is relax — it’s the mask that needs to pass the test, not you. The second thing to do is listen to the trainer and follow their instructions. If they ask you to turn your head to the left, turn your head to the left. If you typically wear other PPE with your mask, bring that to the test.

What a respirator fit test covers:

Along with making sure you have the proper fitting mask, your fit test is an opportunity for training on proper:

  • use, care and maintenance
  • donning and doffing, and
  • user seal checks.

You'll also have an opportunity to discuss hazards in the workplace during the test.

Want to learn more about respiratory protection and fit testing?

Download the Definitive Guide to Respiratory Protection now.

The only way a respirator can protect you:

Respirators are designed to protect you from contaminants in the air. Like we mentioned before, the only way a respirator can protect you from that contaminated air is with an effective seal. If the respirator doesn’t fit your face properly, it will not protect you from the environment around you or hazardous chemicals in the air.

A quantitative fit test will measure the effectiveness of your respirator’s seal, regardless of the type respirator used.

Anything that interferes with the sealing surface can allow contaminants to leak into your facepiece and reduce the level of protection.

The most common example of this is facial hair, but even long hair that’s caught between your face and the seal can cause a problem.

respiratory program guide

The problem with facial hair:

You need to make sure any long hair is tied back and that your face is clean-shaven to provide the most effective seal.  Respirator wearers also need to be aware that facial scars as well as facial and dental surgery can impact the size and protection level offered by their respirator.

Additional PPE

The majority of individuals using respirators during their daily work routine also wear other types of personal protection equipment, including:

  • safety prescription eye wear and goggles
  • hard hats
  • earmuffs

If you wear this PPE regularly, you’ll have to wear the gear during the fit test to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your respirator’s fit.

Book your quantitative fit test now

how to pass a respirator fit test

One size does not fit all

All respirators aren’t created equal, especially when it comes to fit.

People come in all shapes and sizes, so what fits one employee may not fit another.  At the time of testing, it’s important for users to have a variety of products available.

Size and styles will vary by manufacturer so take the time required to choose the respirator that feels right.  You haven’t truly passed your fit test until you know which respirator fits you properly and provides the best, most-effective seal for your face.

It is also important to remember that a respirator fit test is brand and model specific, meaning that a passed test on a size large from one manufacturer does not mean that a size large from another manufacture will also fit.

Respirator maintenance

Your respirator requires regular cleaning and maintenance.

This maintenance will vary based on the complexity of the respirator used, so understand the purpose of each component and how it contributes to the proper function of your respirator.

Common components that need replacement are inhalation and exhalation valves, cartridge gaskets, and head harnesses.

Cleaning can come in the form of respirator cleaning wipes, respirator baths with an approved solution, or respirator washing machines.

Regular testing is key

You need to be fit tested before you start using a respirator for the first time, and retested at least once every two years thereafter to make sure that the respirator you are using continues to fit.

Best practice is to use the actual respirator worn in the workplace for the retest so that instructions on component checks can be reviewed.

You should also be sure to retest the effectiveness of your respirator whenever you have a physical change that could affect the fit of your respirator, including:

  • major weight loss or gain
  • major dental work
  • major facial surgery, and
  • scarring in the areas of the respirator seal.

If you’re not able to pass your fit test with your current respirator in the presence of any of these changes, you’ll have to select a different respirator with equivalent protection factors until you find one that provides you with an adequate seal.

If you aren’t sure whether or not you should be using a respirator, or which one to use for a specific task, ask your supervisor or manager for guidance.

Want to learn more about respiratory protection and fit testing?

Download the Definitive Guide to Respiratory Protection now.