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What is Respirator Fit Testing?

by | Aug 15, 2022 | Axiom Medical, Injury Case Management, Respirator Testing

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an employer must provide a medical evaluation to determine an employee’s medical eligibility for respirator use. With all the talk about respirator fit testing requirements, we are here to deliver the facts about what is needed to keep you ahead of the game.

In this blog post, we will discuss what respirator fit testing is, and we will review things that both employers and employees should know before the test. Curious to learn what is respirator fit testing and its requirements? Let’s go!

Man wearing PPE suit and respirator

What is Respirator Fit Testing – OSHA Accepted Test Protocols:

OSHA mandates an annual respirator fit test for employees required to wear a facepiece for their respective job duties. This is to confirm any respirator’s fit that forms a tight seal on the wearer’s face to avoid any exposure to hazardous gas or materials. This ensures that your employees will receive the expected level of protection by minimizing any contaminant leakage into the facepiece.

Qualitative Exam:

The qualitative Respirator Fit Exam/Test is conducted based on these three OSHA-accepted protocols.

Here are the three OSHA-accepted test protocols.

  • Generated aerosol when using a non-hazardous aerosol in a test chamber
  • Condensation Nuclei Counter when using ambient aerosol without a test chamber
  • Controlled negative pressure when creating a vacuum that temporarily cuts off air

Quantitative Exam:

A quantitative fit test (QNDT) is used to test the respirator’s correct fit and see if the facepiece is tight-fitting. This is to ensure that the facepiece seals appropriately to protect the user.

The quantitative Respirator Fit Exam requires the wearer to perform the same seven exercises as the qualitative test and an additional grimace test. During this test, the worker smiles or frowns for 15 seconds so that the tester can check the respirators’ exact fit.

Leakage Measurement:

As the name suggests, the leakage measurement determines the fit factor of the facepiece and if it is safe to use. The test also involves a machine to measure leakage around the face seal to calculate the fit factor. For all half-mask respirators, the fit factor should be at least 100, while a fit factor for full-piece negative-pressure respirators requires at least 500 in the leakage measurement test.

What Does a Respirator Fit Test Consist of?

Axiom Medical’s respirator fit test will start with a detailed medical evaluation by our in-house medical professionals, which involves reviewing the completed questionnaire and providing appropriate recommendations to the employee and employer. The fit test administrator conducts both qualitative and quantitative tests to measure the “fit factor.”

Here are the seven exercises conducted during a respirator fit test.

  • Normal breathing
  • Deep breathing
  • Moving head side to side
  • Moving head up and down
  • Bending over
  • Talking
  • Normal breathing again

The medical evaluation will determine these three things:

  • Whether the employee is medically safe to wear the respirator without any issues
  • Whether the employee has a medical condition, which requires any follow-up
  • If the employee is cleared to wear a respirator, they will undergo one or both two fit tests: a qualitative fit test or a quantitative fit test.

Many times, the physician or licensed healthcare professional (PLHCP) may make a medical determination as to whether an employee is able to safely wear a respirator, based on each employee’s medical evaluation questionnaire.

Occasionally, the PLHCP may determine a follow-up medical examination will be necessary to make a final decision.

After reviewing the questionnaire or conducting a follow-up medical examination, the PLHCP will provide the employee and employer with a written recommendation.

The written recommendation cannot include any confidential medical information regarding the employee.

Axiom Medical Can Help!

Do you feel like your time is being spent chasing down results, paying outrageous clinic fees, and trying to determine if you’re following all of the federal regulations? We know the feeling.

We’ve found that many companies who are managing their own occupational health programs, such as respirator testing, are not only spending too much time and money doing it but many times, not getting accurate results.

That’s where we come in.  Our expert OHP Program Managers can take care of every detail for you, from scheduling evaluations, reviewing exams for accuracy and paying invoices, all without you having to lift a finger.

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