The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates employees who work in environments that pose hazards such as fumes, harmful dusts, gases, among others to use respirators. Respirators help such employees to lower their exposure to toxins. Such employees must first complete a respirator fit test and a medical examination. Below, we look at how to get ready and what can be expected during a respirator fit test.
How to get ready for a Respirator Fit Test
You need to prepare the following items before you can undertake a respirator fit test:
- Select a respirator. Employers need to consider the toxins which pose a threat to an employee, their concentration and time spent in a hazardous environment. NIOSH must certify the respirator.
- Bring protective equipment. Employees who wear other personal protective equipment that can pose a challenge to the efficiency of a respirator are required to bring such PPE to the fit test.
- Shave. Male employees are required to be cleanly shaven to help avoid facial hair interfering with how a respirator fits onto one’s face.
- Fill a medical evaluation questionnaire. Employees are required to fill an OSHA Respiratory Medical Evaluation Questionnaire and have a physician or other licensed health care provider (PLHCP) review it before one can take the test.
What is covered in a Respirator Fit Test
A medical evaluation precedes a respirator fit test, which involves a review of the questionnaire filled by an employee by a PLHCP. They then write a recommendation based on the review, which is presented to both the employer and employee. This recommendation covers three things:
- The medical ability of an employee to wear or any limitations towards using a respirator.
- Need for an employee to undergo follow-up medical evaluations.
- A declaration that both the employee and employer have been furnished with a copy of the recommendation
If one is found fit to wear a respirator, they will proceed to take either a qualitative or quantitative respirator fit test.
What is covered in a qualitative fit test?
A qualitative fit test (QLFT) is only used to test face pieces that are tightly fitted on the face, together with atmosphere-supplying and negative pressure respirators. This pass/fail test is reliant on the senses of a respirator user.
What is covered in a quantitative fit test?
A quantitative fit test (QNDT) is used to ascertain that tight-fitting respirators have a proper seal capable of protecting the user. The “fit factor” is the number obtained from the instruments that detect leakage at the respirator’s edges around the face.