What is required before using a respirator?
Fit testing is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under OSHA 1910.134 before using a respirator on the job.
A respirator fit test must be performed:
- At least annually.
- Whenever a different size, style, model or make of respirator is used.
- If there are facial changes which may affect the fit of the respirator, such as maxillofacial surgery, dental work or even significant weight change.
There is no certification required. According to the OSHA 1910.134 regulation for fit testing,:
(a) The employer shall ensure that persons administering QLFT are able to prepare test solutions, calibrate equipment and perform tests properly, recognize invalid tests, and ensure that test equipment is in proper working order.
(b) The employer shall ensure that QLFT equipment is kept clean and well maintained so as to operate within the parameters for which it was designed.
Types of Respirator Fit Testing
There are basically two types of respirator fit tests: quantitative v qualitative
Qualitative testing is the most commonly used and is a pass/fail test method that simply relies on the sense of taste or smell or reaction to an irritant in order to detect leakage into the respirator facepiece.
The four qualitative test methods accepted by OSHA are:
- Isoamyl acetate, which smells like bananas;
- Saccharin, which leaves a sweet taste in the subject’s mouth;
- Bitrex, which leaves a bitter taste in the subject’s mouth; and
- Irritant smoke, detected by smell and may cause coughing.
The types of respirators tested with the qualitative test are usually half-mask respirators – such as the very common “N95s” – as well as elastomeric respirators.
Quantitative testing measures the actual amount of leakage through the respirator, requiring a machine, and does not rely upon sense of taste, smell, or irritation.
There are three quantitative test methods accepted by OSHA:
- Generated aerosol;
- Ambient aerosol; and
- Controlled Negative Pressure.
Quantitative testing can be used for any type of tight-fitting respirator.
Fit Testing Kit
To get started with respirator fit testing, you need a fit testing kit. We recommend you start with qualitative testing and only consider quantitative testing when requested by a reliable client contract that will cover the cost of the equipment, and then some.
There are two qualitative test kits we’ll discuss here that provide everything needed to launch your respirator fit test program,
Note that the kit only comes with the Sweet or Saccharin test solution. You need to have at least 2 test solutions, so I recommend you also get the Bitrex (bitter) solution. You will also want to order extra vials of the saccharin.
The 3M Training and Fit Test Kit is a much more comprehensive kit and comes packed in a durable case that contains all the testing equipment PLUS training materials including laminated cards for teaching employees how to properly wear and care for their equipment, as well as posters, videos and other materials.
There are detailed step by step instructions for conducting the tests.
This particular kit really allows you to perform a more comprehensive service to your employer clients, but once proficient can all be completed in a 10-15 minute visit with your MA, nurse or tech.
Again, the kit only comes with the “sweet” Saccharin solution so you’ll need to add at least one other – this is the bitter.
3M Fit Test Video
So now you should be able to get started conducting respirator fit tests for your clients or go out and get some new clients for your expanded services!