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Qualitative Respiratory Fit Testing

Qualitative Fit Testing, as outlined in the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHA) Appendix A to § 1910.134 – Fit Testing Procedures (Mandatory) is a method of testing the effectiveness of a negative pressure respiratory protective device, such as N95’s or half-face respirators, to ensure that an employee is properly protected from airborne contaminates by confirming that the mask or respirator creates a tight, effective seal around the users mouth and nose. Qualitative Fit Testing utilizes a subjective evaluation involving a hood system paired with an aerosolized agent that tastes bitter or sweet, which is sprayed into the test chamber while the employee performs a series of specific exercises created to find deficiencies in the users’ mask such as improper placement or wrong size selection.  The solutions used during testing are harmless and provide immediate feedback to by smell and taste to deem if the respirator is a good fit or not. Industries subject to yearly respirator fit testing include manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and agriculture.

Qualitative Fit Testing should not be confused with Quantitative Fit Testing which utilizes a machine to measure the concentration of aerosolized contaminates both inside and outside of the respirator face piece. Quantitative Fit Testing should be used with all positive pressure respirators and many full/half-face respirators requiring a fit factor of 100+. If the atmosphere in which the employee working has a hazard over 10 times the permissible exposure limits the employee must be fit tested using the Qualitative method.

In general, Qualitative Fit Testing is an inexpensive and convenient option for employers who don’t provide services in dangerous, or possibly dangerous, atmospheres. Employees must be clean shaven and pass yearly medical examinations to prove they are physically and mentally (i.e., claustrophobia) capable of wearing respirator devices, usually through annual, employer sponsored physicals. On average, it takes an employee 15-20 minutes to be properly fitted into a mask either provided by the employee, employer, or IGH Health, Fire, & Safety. A vast majority of employers and universities utilize outside assistance to administer the tests, as it can be lengthy, cumbersome process especially when there are a multitude of employees or students in need of annual testing.

IGH Health, Fire, & Safety offers onsite Qualitative Fit Testing services for groups of 5 or more in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, and surrounding cities in the DFW Metroplex. Our fit testing technicians are fully training Nurses and First Responders with experience testing and wearing a variety of respirators. Employees are provided with an OSHA Compliant Fit Testing form outlining the procedures, make, model, and size of the respirator that fits properly. Employers are also provided with a copy of the form to ensure they have the correct respirators for their employees. The OSHA regulated test is good for (1) year from the testing date and must be completed annually.

If you would like to schedule onsite fit testing for your organization, feel free to contact IGH Health, Fire, & Safety at (817) 809-8677 or email us at info@ighsafety.com. For large groups, IGH will often travel outside of the DFW Metroplex and cover the entirety of North Texas, Waco, Austin, Houston, and West Texas.