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How to Fit Test Your Respirator

Performing a Qualitative Fit Test

Fit testing is a method of ensuring that a certain respirator model and size fits an employee so that it provides adequate protection from contaminants. There are two different types of fit tests – Quantitative and Qualitative.

Quantitative fit tests are less subjective because they use a machine to measure the test agent's concentration inside compared to outside the respirator to check the amount of leakage. If the employee is exposed to greater than 10 times OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL), then a quantitative fit test must be performed. Quantitative fit tests are not used as often as qualitative.

Qualitative fit tests are less expensive and more common than quantitative. They are also less accurate. Qualitative fit testing relies on the employee's ability to taste or smell the test agent. See the instructions below to learn how to perform a qualitative fit test:

Step 1

Step 1
The worker must be shown how to put on, adjust and fit the respirator. Click here for instructions on donning a respirator.

The worker must also be given in-depth respirator training, which should cover such things as the contaminants, limitations of the respirators, etc.

Step 2

Step 2
The worker must put on the respirator five minutes before the test.

Step 3

Step 3
Have the worker fit check the respirator. Click here for instructions on proper fit checking.

Step 4

Step 4
Perform a sensitivity test with a diluted solution of the testing agent to see how long it takes the worker to detect the agent. Apply the test agent according to the manufacturer's instructions. Make sure you use the appropriate filter or cartridge for the test agent you are using (check the manufacturer's instructions).

Click here for fit testing agents.

Step 5

Step 5
While applying the test agent, have your employee perform a variety of exercises according to the test agent manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers recommend that deep breathing, moving the head and talking be performed for one minute each.

If your employees have facial hair, facial deformities or are missing dentures, they may be unable to pass a fit test. These employees can wear a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) because it does not require a tight seal around the face. These respirators have a loose-fitting hood or helmet and push air through the filters via a motor.

NOTE: Half-mask respirators should never be used when air contaminant concentrations could be more than 10 times the PEL. Full-face respirators can be used in concentrations up to 50 times the PEL. If above 10 times the PEL, the full-face respirator must be quantitatively fit tested.

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