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Healthy Healthcare Workers are Essential

N95 + Proper Fit and Use = Maximum Protection

Fit Testing is Essential

As the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, fit testing respirators for healthcare workers and first responders remains vital to a respiratory protection program to reduce exposure to the disease. According to the CDC, the effectiveness of N95 respirators to control exposure to airborne infectious diseases is highly dependent on proper fit and use. In other words, your respirator protects only as well as it fits. As the COVID-19 virus is an airborne inhalation hazard, respiratory protection from properly fit-tested filtering facepieces, such as NIOSH-certified N95s, can help prevent the spread of the illness.


What is a respirator fit test? 

A respirator fit test checks whether a respirator properly fits the face of someone who wears it. The fitting characteristic is the respirator's ability to separate a worker's respiratory system from ambient air.


The video below demonstrates a quantitative fit test with the PortaCount® Respirator Fit Tester.


Why is fit testing so important?

If a respirator doesn't fit a user's face correctly, contaminated air can leak into the respirator facepiece, putting them at risk for breathing in airborne infectious diseases.


When do I fit test?

Fit testing is required in the US by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) before a user wears a mandatory respirator on the job and must be assessed annually. Fit tests also need to be conducted whenever a different size, style, model, or respirator is used. Fit testing must also be conducted whenever respirator design or facial changes occur that could affect the respirator's proper fit.


What is the proper use of a respirator?

A respirator must be put on and worn correctly for optimal protection. It must also be inspected before donning each time it's worn. The respirator user needs training on properly donning and adjusting any respirators worn according to the manufacturers' instructions. When workers understand how proper size and alignment can affect respirator fit on the face, they can consistently achieve a better fit and protection.


How can I train my staff to wear respirators correctly? (blog)

How Real-Time Measurements Improve Training and Respirator Selection (blog)
Training is the Key to a Good Fit Test Program (pdf)


How do you fit test?

There are two methods of fit testing filtering facepiece respirators that are approved by OSHA.


Qualitative fit testing  

Qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test method that uses the sense of taste or smell or reaction to an irritant to detect leakage into the respirator face piece. Qualitative fit testing does not measure the actual amount of leakage. Whether the respirator passes or fails, the test is based simply on detecting the test substance's leakage into the face piece. Each test takes approximately 20 minutes.


Quantitative fit testing

Quantitative fit testing uses a machine to measure the actual amount of leakage into the face piece. It does not rely on the sense of taste, smell, or irritation to detect leakage. The quantitative test not only detects the presence of a leak but also measures the amount of leakage.


The video below covers these basic questions, the primary methods accepted for use by OSHA, and gives an overview using quantitative methods with the PortaCount® Respirator Fit Tester.



What fit testing method is better?

Both quantitative and qualitative are compliant. But quantitative fit testing eliminates uncertainty for respiratory protection program administrators and users by measuring the fit and providing objective data to make informed decisions to help keep staff safe. The main difference between quantitative mask fit testing and qualitative mask fit testing is that quantitative testing objectively measures the amount of leakage. In contrast, qualitative testing relies on the user's taste and smell to detect leakage.



Differences between qualitative and quantitative respirator fit testing (Q&A)

Quantitative Fit Testing vs. Qualitative Fit Testing Comparison (pdf)

Does qualitative fit testing answer the important questions? (blog)

Why Quantitative Respirator Fit Testing Beats Qualitative (pdf)

A proper respirator fit testing program can help ensure that the highest respiratory protection levels are achieved through a properly sized and donned respirator.