Respirator Fit Test

What is mean by respirator fit test?

A fit test is a test protocol conducted to verify that a respirator is both comfortable and correctly fits the user. Fit testing uses a test agent, either qualitatively detected by the wearer’s sense of taste, smell or involuntary cough (irritant smoke) or quantitatively measured by an instrument, to verify the respirator’s fit. See questions related to qualitative and quantitative fit testing for more specific information.

Fit testing necessary:

Fit testing each model of respirator the employee is to use in workplace tasks before their use is important to assure the expected level of protection is provided by minimizing the total amount of contaminant leakage into the face piece. The benefits of this testing include better protection for the employee and verification that the employee is wearing a correctly-fitting model and size of respirator. Higher than expected exposures to a contaminate may occur if users have poor face seals with the respirator, which can result in excessive leakage.

Different methods for respirator fit testing:

Fit test methods are classified as either qualitative or quantitative, and there are multiple protocols of each classification that are OSHA-accepted, ANSI-accepted, or NIOSH-recommended. A qualitative fit test is a pass/fail test to assess the adequacy of respirator fit that relies on the individual’s sensory detection of a test agent. A quantitative fit test numerically measures the effectiveness of the respirator to seal with the wearer’s face, without relying on the wearer’s voluntary or involuntary response to a test agent.

Qualitative fit testing (QLFT):

  1. The protocols are initiated by first determining the wearer’s ability to detect the test agent (e.g. saccharin, isoamyl acetate, BitrexTM) at a sensitivity level that corresponds to less than an acceptable fit before put on (donning) the tight-fitting face piece respirator. The wearer enters an exposure chamber, has a test enclosure placed on his/her head, or is positioned somewhere in an open test area and the test agent is generated around him/her. The wearer signals when the test agent is sensed. The fit test operator proceeds with the fit test only if the demonstrated sensitization level is low enough to assure the test agent will be sensed at all levels representing a failure to achieve an acceptable fit. [Note: Isoamyl acetate, being an organic vapor, can not be used as a test agent for particulate respirators.]
  2. Next, the wearer follows the manufacturer’s instructions to put on what initially seems to be the best fitting respirator provided by the employer.
  3. The wearer then completes a user seal check to confirm that the respirator is properly seated on the face
  4. The wearer then enters an exposure chamber, has a test enclosure placed on his/her head, or is positioned somewhere in an open test area. The test agent is generated at the designated test level around the subject.
  5. The fit test operator observes the worker during exposure while directing him/her through a series of exercises. The fit test operator notes involuntary coughing (irritant smoke) during the test or asks the wearer at the end of the test if he or she smelled or tasted anything at any time during the test. From the test subject’s response and the fit test operator’s observations, the fit test operator determines a pass/fail judgment by which the respirator make, model and size may be assigned to the wearer.

How is qualitative fit testing performed?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has included the acceptance of respirator fit test protocols in it’s regulations at 29 CFR 1910.134. The OSHA-accepted fit test protocols can be found at 29 CFR 1910.134 appendix A. The American National Standards Institute’s ANSI Z88.10, Respirator Fit Testing Methods provides the step-by-step explanations for conducting the ANSI-accepted fit tests. While the OSHA regulations and ANSI Z88.10 provide the procedures that must be used to conduct each of the accepted protocols, a general description of how theprotocols are conducted is provided below for the convenience of the reader.

Quantitative fit testing performed:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)has included the acceptance ofrespirator fit test protocols in it’s regulations at 29 CFR 1910.134. The OSHA-accepted fit test protocols can be found at 29 CFR 1910.134 appendix A. The American National Standards Institute’s ANSI Z88.10, Respirator Fit Testing Methods provides the step-by-step explanations for conducting the ANSI -accepted fit tests. There are several methods with significantly different protocols for conducting Quantitative fit testing (QNFT). While the OSHA regulations and ANSI Z88.10 provide the procedures that must be used to conduct each of the accepted protocols, a general description of the most common methods used in the protocols are provided below for the convenience of the reader.

In order to do these measurements, a small sampling tube is positioned to sample the air within the facepiece of the respirator and attached to a fit testing instrument able to calculate the percentage of particles leaking into the facepiece.

  1. First, the wearer dons one of the respirator models/sizes provided by the employer that is expected to provide a good fit , in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  2. The wearer completes a user seal check to confirm that the respirator is properly seated on his/her face
  3. A fit testing adaptor is affixed to the respirator and the respirator is attached to a fit testing instrument through a small sampling tube positioned within the facepiece
  4. The fit test operator then instructs the wearer to go through a series of prescribed exercises while the attached fit testing instrument measures the ratio of particles both inside and outside of the respirator. From this data, a fit factor for the tested wearer is calculated which will determine whether or not the model, brand, and size of the respirator is suitable (passable) to be used regularly by that wearer.

Difference between a qualitative and quantitative fit test:

Qualitative fit testing (QLFT) relies on the respirator wearer’s senses to determine if there is a gap in the seal of the respirator to the wearer’s face.

The test agents used in the OSHA-accepted and ANSI-accepted qualitative fit testing protocols are:

  • Saccharin – a sweet tasting solid aerosol;
  • Isoamyl acetate – a liquid that produces a sweet smelling vapor similar to bananas;
  • BitrexTM – a bitter tasting solid aerosol; and
  • Irritant smoke – a solid aerosol made of stannic oxychloride that produces hydrochloric acid when it comes in contact with water vapor. Exposure to the hydrochloric acid produces an involuntary cough reflex.[Note: NIOSH does not endorse or recommend the use of the irritant smoke fit test. NIOSH, in its formal comments to OSHA on the proposed revision of 29 CFR 1910, 1915, and 1926, strongly recommended against the use of this fit test method because of the health risk associated with exposure to the irritant smoke. That recommendation was primarily based on studies conducted as part of a NIOSH HHE (HETA 93-040-2315) and described in Appendix A of the NIOSH comments to OSHA dated May 15, 1995 (docket H-049).]

The test protocols include testing at a sensitivity level that demonstrates the user will be able to appropriately sense the presence of the test agent within the respirator by taste, smell or the urge to cough.

Quantitative fit testing (QNFT) uses fit testing instrument(s) to provide quantitative, or numerical measurements of the amount of face seal leakage present when a given respirator is donned by a particular user.

Respirator fit tests required:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (29 CFR 1910.134) requires a respirator fit test to confirm the fit of any respirator that forms a tight seal on the wear’s face before it is to be used in the workplace. That same OSHA respirator standard also prohibits tight fitting respirators to be worn by workers who have facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face of the wearer.

How often must fit testing be done?

Because each brand, model, and size of particulate facepiece respirators will fit slightly differently, a user should engage in a fit test every time a new model, manufacture type/brand, or size is worn. Also, if weight fluctuates or facial/dental alterations occur, a fit test should be done again to ensure the respirator remains effective. Otherwise, fit testing should be completed at least annually to ensure continued adequate fit.

Once I am fit tested can I use any brand / make / model respirator as long as it is the same size?

No. A fit test only qualifies the user to put on (don) the specific brand/make/model of respirator with which an acceptable fit testing result was achieved. Users should only wear the specific brand, model, and size respirators that he or she wore during successful fit tests. [Note: respirator sizing is variable and not standardized across models or brands. For example a medium in one model may not offer the same fit as a different manufacturer’s medium model.]

Respirator user seal check:

It is a procedure conducted by the respirator wearer to determine if the respirator is properly seated to the face. The user seal check can be either a positive pressure or negative pressure check, which are generally performed as follows: The positive pressure user seal check is where the person wearing the respirator exhales gently while blocking the path for exhaled breath to exit the facepiece. A successful check is when the facepiece is slightly pressurized before increased pressure causes outward leakage. The negative pressure user seal check is where the person wearing the respirator inhales sharply while blocking the paths for inhaled breath to enter the facepiece. A successful check is when the facepiece collapses slightly under the negative pressure that is created with this procedure. A user seal check is sometimes referred to as a fit check. A user seal check should be completed each time the respirator is put on (donned). It is only applicable when a respirator has already been successfully fit tested on the individual.

When should a user seal check be done?

Once a fit test has been done to determine the best model and size of respirator for a particular user, a user seal check should be done by the user every time the respirator is to be worn to ensure an adequate seal is achieved.

User seal check on a particulate respirator:

A user seal check may be accomplished by using the procedures recommended by the manufacturer of the respirator. This information can be found on the box or individual respirator packaging. There are positive and negative pressure seal checks and not every respirator can be checked using both. You should refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for conducting user seal checks on any specific respirator .

The following positive and negative user seal check procedures for filtering facepiece respirators are provided as examples of how to perform these procedures.

Positive pressure check –Once the particulate respirator is properly put on (donned), your hands over the facepiece, covering as much surface area as possible. Exhale gently into the facepiece. The face fit is considered satisfactory if a slight positive pressure is being built up inside the facepiece without any evidence of outward leakage of air at the seal. Examples of such evidence would be the feeling of air trickling onto the your face along the seal of the facepiece, fogging of your glasses, or a lack of pressure being built up inside the facepiece.

If the particulate respirator has an exhalation valve, then performing a positive pressure check may be impossible. If so, then do a negative pressure check.

Negative pressure check – Negative pressure seal checks are conducted on particulate respirators that have exhalation valves. To conduct a negative pressure user seal check, cover the filter surface with your hands as much as possible and then inhale. The facepiece should collapse on your face and you should not feel air passing between your face and the facepiece.

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) require fit testing

The answer to this question depends on the type of facepiece that the respirator has. Any facepieces that form a tight seal to the wearer’s face, e.g. half-masks and full facepieces must be fit tested regardless of the mode of operation. The PAPR fit test is conducted with the blower turned off.

Loose fitting respirators, such as PAPRs, in which the hood or helmet are designed to form only a partial seal with the wearer’s face or hoods which seal loosely around the wearer’s neck or shoulders, do not require fit testing.

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Respiratory Protection

This information presents advantages and disadvantages of various types of respiratory protection devices

Disposable Particulate Respirators:

The NIOSH-certified disposable respirators labeled N, R, or P and may be obtained with or without exhalation valves. Most manufacturers also produce them in different sizes. A face shield may also be used in conjunction with a half-mask disposable respirator for protection against airborne flying material and fluids.

Advantages:

1. The respirator is disposable and most models require no cleaning or maintenance.

2. The respirator is light weight and fairly comfortable to wear.

Disadvantages:

1. The respirator is a negative-pressure device using the suction produced by inhalation to draw air through the filter. The inhalation process, even under the best of circumstances, will allow some contaminated air to leak into the face piece.

2. A respirator with exhalation valves cannot be used when working in a clean room/sterile environments. The exhalation valve allows droplets and particles exhaled by the user to escape and potentially contaminate the work area. These respirators are also available without exhalation valves.

Replaceable Particulate Filter Respirators:

Half-Mask Replaceable Particulate Filter Respirator:

This respirator has single or dual filters made of the same material as the N, R, and P disposable respirators (HEPA filters can also be used). Most manufacturers produce more than one size. A face shield may also be used in conjunction with a half-mask particulate filter respirator.

Advantages:

A. The respirator is lightweight and does not restrict mobility.

B. The respirator is made of rubber or elastomer and is durable. Only the filters need to be replaced when necessary.

Disadvantages:

1. The respirator must be routinely inspected, cleaned, disinfected, and repaired.

2. The respirator is a negative-pressure device using the suction produced by inhalation to draw air through the filter. The inhalation process, even under the best of circumstances, will allow some contaminated air to leak into the face piece.

3. Communication may be difficult.

4. The respirator cannot be used in areas where a clean or sterile field is required.

Full Face piece Replaceable Particulate Filter Respirator:

The respirator can be equipped with the N, R, or P filters (HEPA filters can also be used). It is also manufactured in more than one size.

Advantages:

1. The respirator provides a better seal than the half-mask and with HEPA or 100 series filter is more protective.

2. The respirator is durable.

3. The respirator provides eye protection.

Disadvantages:

1. The respirator cannot be used in areas where a sterile field is required.

2. The respirator must be inspected, cleaned, and repaired.

3. The respirator is a negative-pressure device using the suction produced by inhalation to draw air through the filter. The inhalation process, even under the best of circumstances, will allow some contaminated air to leak into the facepiece.

4. Communication may be difficult.

5. Special lens kits are required for those respirator users who wear glasses.

Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR)

Tight-Fitting PAPR:

Equipment is battery operated, consists of a half or full face piece, breathing tube, battery-operated blower, and particulate filters (HEPA only). A PAPR uses a blower to pass contaminated air through a HEPA filter, which removes the contaminant and supplies purified air to a face piece. A PAPR is not a true positive-pressure device because it can be over-breathed when inhaling.

Advantages:

1. The respirator is more protective than a half-mask respirator.

2. The respirator is usually more comfortable because air is forced into the mask by the blower, producing a cooling effect.

3. The respirator is durable.

4. Breathing resistance is lower.

Disadvantages:

1. The respirator cannot be used where a clean or sterile field is required because it has an exhalation valve and in some cases air can exit around the face seal.

2. Batteries must be recharged and maintained to assure proper flow rates into the mask.

3. The respirator must be inspected, cleaned, and repaired.

4. Communication may be a problem.

5. A PAPR may be bulky and noisy.

Loose Fitting PAPR:

This respirator consists of a hood or helmet, breathing tube, battery-operated blower, and HEPA filters.

Advantages:

1. More protective than a half-mask respirator.

2. The respirator is more comfortable because it is loose-fitting.

3. Provides a cooling effect in the hood or helmet.

4. The respirator is durable.

5. Breathing resistance is lower.

6. Vision may be better.

7. Can be worn with facial hair as long as facial hair does not interfere with valve or function of the respirator.

Disadvantages:

1. The equipment cannot be used where a sterile field must be maintained because air exits around the hood or helmet.

2. Batteries must be charged and maintained.

3. The respirator must be inspected, cleaned, and repaired.4. Communication may be difficult.5. A PAPR may be bulky and noisy.

Positive-Pressure Supplied-Air Respirators:

Fixed Air Supply:

Supplied-air respirators use compressed air from a stationary source delivered through a hose under pressure to a half-mask or a full face piece. A face shield may also be used in conjunction with a half-mask airline respirator for protection against body fluids.

Advantages:

1. The respirator is much more protective because it provides positive pressure in the face piece and almost all leakage is outward. A positive-pressure supplied-air respirator should be used when disposable respirators, replaceable respirators, or PAPRs do not provide adequate protection.

2. Breathing resistance is minimal.

3. The respirator is relatively comfortable to wear.

Disadvantages:

1. The airline hose restricts the user’s mobility.

2. This respirator exhausts air contaminated by the user and should not be worn during clean or sterile procedures.

3. The respirator must be inspected, cleaned, and repaired.

4. Communication may be difficult.

5. Requires installation and maintenance of a regulated compressed air supply for Grade D breathing air.

6. Maintenance requires highly skilled, technically trained personnel.

7. Length of hose and connection point must be adequate to prevent exposure to airborne contaminates when removing the respirator.

Respiratory Protection Program Evaluation:

Evaluations of the workplace are necessary to ensure that the written respiratory protection program is being properly implemented, this includes consulting with employees to ensure that they are using the respirators properly. Evaluations should be conducted to ensure that the provisions of the current written program are being effectively implemented and that it continues to be effective Program evaluation includes discussions with employees required to use respirators to assess the employees’ views on program effectiveness and to identify any problems. Factors to be assessed include, but are not limited to: Respirator fit (including the ability to use the respirator without interfering with effective workplace performance); Appropriate respirator selection for the hazards to which the employee is exposed; Proper respirator use under the workplace conditions the employee encounters; and Proper respirator maintenance.

Selection of Respirators:

The Company has evaluated the respiratory hazard(s) in each workplace, identified relevant workplace and user factors and Assigned Protection Factors and has based respirator selection on these factors. Also included are estimates of employee exposures to respiratory hazard(s) and an identification of the contaminant’s chemical state and physical form. This selection has included appropriate protective respirators for use in IDLH atmospheres, and has limited the selection and use of air-purifying respirators. All selected respirators are NIOSH-certified .

Filter Classifications:

These classifications are marked on the filter or filter package

N-Series: Not Oil Resistant

  • Approved for non-oil particulate contaminants.
  • Examples: dust, fumes, mists not containing oil

R-Series: Oil Resistant.

  • Approved for all particulate contaminants, including those containing oil
  • Examples: dusts, mists, fumes
  • Time restriction of 8 hours when oils are present

P-Series: Oil Proof

  • Approved for all particulate contaminants including those containing oil
  • Examples: dust, fumes, mists
  • See Manufacturer’s time use restrictions on packaging

Respirators for Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health(IDLH) atmospheres:

  • The following respirators will be used in IDLH atmospheres:
  • A full face piece pressure demand SCBA certified by NIOSH for a minimum service life of thirty minutes, or
  • A combination full face piece pressure demand supplied-air respirator (SAR) with auxiliary self-contained air supply.
  • Respirators provided only for escape from IDLH atmospheres shall be NIOSH-certified for escape from the atmosphere in which they will be used.

Identification of Filters & Cartridges:

All filters and cartridges shall be labeled and color coded with the NIOSH approval label and that the label is not removed and remains legible. A change out schedule for filters and canisters has been developed to ensure these elements of the respirators remain effective.

Respirator Filter & Canister Replacement

An important part of the Respiratory Protection Program includes identifying the useful life of canisters and filters used on air-purifying respirators. Each filter and canister shall be equipped with an end-of-service-life indicator (ESLI) certified by NIOSH for the contaminant; orIf there is no ESLI appropriate for conditions a change schedule for canisters and cartridges that is based on objective information or data that will ensure that canisters and cartridges are changed before the end of their service life.

Filter & Cartridge Change Schedule

Stock of spare filers and cartridges shall be maintained to allow immediate change when required or desired by the employee

Types of Fit Tests

The fit test shall be administered using an OSHA-accepted QLFT or QNFT protocol. The OSHA-accepted QLFT and QNFT protocols and procedures are contained in Appendix A of OSHA Standard 1910.134.

  • QLFT may only be used to fit test negative pressure air-purifying respirators that must achieve a fit factor of 100 or less.
  • If the fit factor, as determined through an OSHA-accepted QNFT protocol, is equal to or greater than 100 for tight-fitting half face pieces, or equal to or greater than 500 for tight-fitting full face pieces, the QNFT has been passed with that respirator.
  • Fit testing of tight-fitting atmosphere-supplying respirators and tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators shall be accomplished by performing quantitative or qualitative fit testing in the negative pressure mode, regardless of the mode of operation (negative or positive pressure) that is used for respiratory protection.
  • Qualitative fit testing of these respirators shall be accomplished by temporarily converting the respirator user’s actual face piece into a negative pressure respirator with appropriate filters, or by using an identical negative pressure air-purifying respirator face piece with the same sealing surfaces as a surrogate for the atmosphere-supplying or powered air-purifying respirator face piece.
  • Quantitative fit testing of these respirators shall be accomplished by modifying the face piece to allow sampling inside the face piece in the breathing zone of the user, midway between the nose and mouth. This requirement shall be accomplished by installing a permanent sampling probe onto a surrogate face piece, or by using a sampling adapter designed to temporarily provide a means of sampling air from inside the face piece.
  • Any modifications to the respirator face piece for fit testing shall be completely removed, and the face piece restored to NIOSH approved configuration, before that face piece can be used in the workplace. Fit test records shall be retained for respirator users until the next fit test is administered. Written materials required to be retained shall be made available upon request to affected employees.

Respirator Cleaning Guide

1. Remove filters, cartridges, or canisters. Disassemble face pieces by removing speaking diaphragms, demand and pressure demand valve assemblies, hoses, or any components recommended by the manufacturer. Discard or repair any defective parts.  

2. Wash components in warm (43 deg. C [110 deg. F] maximum) water with a mild detergent or with a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. A stiff bristle (not wire) brush may be used to facilitate the removal of dirt.

3. Rinse components thoroughly in clean, warm (43 deg. C [110 deg. F] maximum), preferably running water. Drain.

4. When the cleaner used does not contain a disinfecting agent, respirator components should be immersed for two minutes in one of the following:

  • Hypochlorite solution (50 ppm of chlorine) made by adding approximately one milliliter of laundry bleach to one liter of water at 43 deg. C (110 deg. F); or,
  • Aqueous solution of iodine (50 ppm iodine) made by adding approximately 0.8 milliliters of tincture of iodine (68 grams ammonium and/or potassium iodide/100 cc of 45% alcohol) to one liter of water at 43 deg. C (110 deg. F); or,
  • Other commercially available cleansers of equivalent disinfectant quality when used as directed, if their use is recommended or approved by the respirator manufacturer.

5. Rinse components thoroughly in clean, warm (43 deg. C [110 deg. F] maximum), preferably running water. Drain. The importance of thorough rinsing cannot be overemphasized. Detergents or disinfectants that dry on face pieces may result in dermatitis. In addition, some disinfectants may cause deterioration of rubber or corrosion of metal parts if not completely removed.

6. Components should be hand dried with a clean lint free cloth or air dried.

7. Reassemble face piece, replacing filters, cartridges, and canisters where necessary.

8. Test the respirator to ensure that all components work properly.

Dos and Don ts – Respiratory Protection:

• Do implement Engineering Controls to reduce/control airborne hazard before resorting to Respiratory Protection.

• Do get a Medical Evaluation at the University .

• Employee Occupational Health Clinic (UEOHC) prior to wearing a respirator. • Do get quantitatively Fit Tested by EHS staff prior to using a respirator and ANNUALLY thereafter.

• Do receive annual training and be able to demonstrate why a respirator is necessary and how improper fit, usage, or maintenance can compromise respirator effectiveness.

• Do read and understand the respirator manufacturer’s instructions with respect to maintenance, cleaning and care, limitations on use, and cartridge/canister replacement schedule.

• Do understand what contaminants and hazards you may be exposed to and ensure you are wearing the proper Respiratory Protection.

• Do know the capabilities and limitations of your respirator and what to do in an emergency situation.

• Do perform a user seal check (both positive and negative pressure tests) every time you put on your respirator.

• Do Inspect, Clean, and Sanitize respirator prior to and after each use and store in a clean, dry container/bag.

• Do use a minimum of Grade D breathing air for Supplied Air Respirators (SAR).

• Don’t wear a respirator that you have NOT been Fit Tested for and approved to wear.

• Don’t wear a tight-fitting respirator if you have facial hair growth between the face-to-face piece seal. Loose-fitting Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR) should be worn by employees with facial hair.

• Don’t use a respirator, filter, cartridge, or canister that has NOT been certified by NIOSH.

• Don’t wait until you smell a gas or vapor to change your chemical cartridge/canister.

• Don’t remove your respirator in a contaminated environment.

• Don’t use a respirator that is damaged or defective.

• Don’t attempt to repair punctured or deformed face piece.

• Don’t store a wet respirator in an air tight container. Always thoroughly dry respirator prior to storage.

• Don’t use an Air-Purifying Respirator (APR) or an airline respirator in an atmosphere that is oxygen deficient or Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH).

• Don’t enter an unknown environment without a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

RESPIRATORY PROTECTION SIGNAGE’S

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