When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, became effective on April 8, 1998, it provided employers with an all-inclusive reference source for fit testing guidelines. Before its revision, the standard made reference to testing a respirator’s “face-piece-to-face seal,” but provided no additional guidance on how to perform the test. The standard now specifies what needs fit testing, the kinds of fit tests allowed, the procedures for conducting them and how frequently fit tests must be performed.
As discussed in Quick Tips #140, Respirator Fit Testing Requirements and Procedures, before an employee is required to use any negative or positive pressure tight-fitting respirator, the employee must complete and pass either a qualitative or quantitative fit test with the same make, model, style and size of respirator that he/she will be using. The fit test must be performed:
OSHA allows for the use of both qualitative and quantitative tests to evaluate a respirator’s fit on an individual. Qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test to assess respirator fit based on the individual’s response to a test agent. A quantitative fit test assesses respirator fit by numerically measuring leakage into the respirator.
There are advantages and disadvantages to qualitative and quantitative fit testing.
In accordance with 29 CFR 1910.134(d), when selecting respirators employers must:
OSHA recognizes four types of qualitative fit testing protocol agents: Bitrex® solution aerosol, saccharin solution aerosol, isoamyl acetate (banana oil) and irritant smoke (stannic chloride). For details, see Quick Tips #324: Qualitative Fit Testing.
OSHA recognizes three types of quantitative fit testing protocol agents: generated aerosol, ambient aerosol condensation nuclei count (CNC) and controlled negative pressure (CNP). All three types of quantitative fit testing use a digital instrument that measures airborne particles inside and outside the test respirator or measures vacuum pressure. A special sampling probe takes measurements inside the mask.
All three OSHA-accepted quantitative fit tests require the face piece being tested to be equipped with high-efficiency particle filters (P100/HEPA) so that no particles enter the respirator and skew the results. TSI PortaCount® test equipment has an N95 companion, which is used to fit test 95 filter-class respirators. The mask is also equipped with a temporary probe adapter or the person being tested might wear a surrogate mask with a permanent sampling probe. OSHA notes the employer must also ensure that persons administering the quantitative fit tests are able to calibrate the equipment used and perform tests properly, recognize invalid tests, calculate fit factors properly and ensure that test equipment is in proper working order.
Also, all three tests use these eight 60-second exercises:
For more details on the specific requirements of each of the quantitative test methods, see Appendix A of 29 CFR 1910.134. Because of the equipment requirements for quantitative fit testing, many companies contract with an industrial hygienist or other safety service provider to have the testing performed.
OSHA’s Respirator Fit Testing Resource Page
The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.
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