What You Need To Know About Respirator Fit Testing

Posted on: 3 October 2019

Many workplace environments contain gases or vapors that could be detrimental to employee health. OSHA requires that individuals working within these environments wear respirators at all times to protect against serious illness and injury.

A respirator is only effective if it fits the employee properly. Fit testing is a critical part of any employee safety program, so you need to be well-educated on the ins and outs of the respirator fit testing process.

What Is the Purpose of a Fit Test?

The only objective of a respirator fit test is to identify whether or not a given respirator fits an employee as it should. The seal between the respirator and the employee's face will be tested to determine if contaminated air would be able to enter the respirator at any time.

Many employees are unaware that facial hair or certain skin products can compromise the seal of their respirator. A fit test provides the opportunity for any potential problems to be addressed, recommendations to be made, and the proper fit to be achieved before an employee spends time in a contaminated work environment.

Who Performs the Fit Test?

According to OSHA regulations, employers are required to conduct routine fit tests for all employees who must wear a respirator to complete work-related tasks.

The individual administering the fit test must be familiar with the testing procedures approved by OSHA, or your company could face serious penalties for any respirator failures that occur. Both qualitative and quantitative tests must be carried out to ensure the safety of employees. 

When Are Fit Tests Required?

There is no schedule to determine when respirator fit tests must be administered, but there are certain circumstances that warrant the completion of a new fit test. Any time an employee receives a new respirator, the device must undergo a rigorous fit test before being put to use.

Employees who have recently experienced a significant physical change must also undergo a new fit test. Some of these changes include dramatic weight loss or gain, major dental work, scarring near the seal area, or the addition of glasses or hearing devices. These physical changes can affect the way a respirator sits on the face, so a new fit test is essential.

Regular and comprehensive respirator fit tests are essential when it comes to preserving the health and safety of your employees. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the fit testing process so that you will be prepared to maximize the protection your respirators provide.