A fit test is a test used to verify that a respirator is both comfortable and provides the wearer with the expected protection.

The procedure uses an agent to qualitatively detect a wearer’s sense of taste, smell or irritant.

(OSHA) (29 CFR 1910.134)  requires that fit testing is conducted on face masks in order to protect individuals who are required to wear face masks In various high risk environments. The fit testing process will determine if the mask in use provides the individual with the appropriate protection.

The Federal Government and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the USA require employers to fit test their employees using N-95 masks. This is required annually, especially in healthcare settings and high-risk environments.

How Does a Fit Test Work?

A fit test should be performed after a medical evaluation questionnaire is completed to determine if the individual has any other factors that could interfere with wearing a mask. If there is a medical issue, wearing a mask could worsen the issue or become unsafe. The medical evaluation questionnaire is a series of questions that are reviewed by a licensed healthcare professional to determine if it is safe for an individual to wear a respirator.

An employer can choose a qualitative fit test or a quantitative fit test. A qualitative fit test will determine an individual’s sense of taste or smell when exposed to an irritant while wearing a mask. A quantitative fit test uses an instrument to determine how many particles are passing through a respirator.

A successful fit test will only qualify a person to use the specific mask they were fit tested with. Individuals with facial hair that crosses the border of the respirator cannot be fit-tested. Facial hair that crosses the border causes a break in the seal of the mask and allows external particles to enter. OSHA regulations say that facial hair has to be contained inside the mask and not cross the border. If an individual has facial hair that crosses the border, they will automatically fail.

Procedures for Conducting a Fit Test

  • Demonstrate to the test subject how a respirator is fitted.
  • The individual will be informed that he/she will be provided respirators by their employer. Respirators that do not fit an individual appropriately will not be accepted.
  • If an individual exhibits difficulty in breathing during the tests, the individual will be referred to a physician for an evaluation to determine if they can wear a respirator.
  • If the employee finds the fit of the respirator unacceptable, the individual can select a different respirator and start the test again with the new respirator.
  • Describe the testing procedure for the individual to be tested.
  • The Fit Test Exercises should be conducted in an appropriate environment in the following manner:
    • Breathing deeply and slowly in a normal standing position.
    • Breathing normally and in a standing position and without talking
    • The subject should also be tested with head movements from side to side, up and down inhaling with each movement.
    • The individual should also be tested while talking/bending over/normal breathing for e.g., using a rainbow passage that they would read.
    • The individuals will be questioned by the tester regarding the comfort of the respirator once the test is completed. If the respirator was not comfortable a different respirator should be selected, and the test should be re-conducted.

Finding a qualified fit tested is a challenge. SmarTest Labs, located near you, provides on-site fit testing services. Call us at 301-686-8566 to schedule your respirator fit testing.