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The 10 most FAQ's about Respirator Fit Testing

The 10 most FAQ's about Respirator Fit Testing

Posted on Tuesday, 13 November 2018 by Natalie Henderson
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Fit testing - heard about it, but not sure what it is? Do you need it? What does WorkSafe say? Here's 10 of the most frequently asked questions about fit testing for respirators.

What is a fit test?

Don't worry, there's no running, push ups or wall sits involved in a fit test - it's nothing to do with fitness.

A “fit test” tests the seal between the respirator's face-piece and your face. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to complete and is performed at least annually. After passing a fit test with a respirator, you must use the exact same make, model, style, and size respirator on the job.

Who needs a fit test?

Anyone using 'tight fitting' respiratory protective equipment (RPE) needs a fit test. This means any RPE that works through negative pressure such as disposable respirators, half-mask and full-mask respirators with filters. These work through suction produced by inhaling to draw air through the filter. They require a tight fit to minimise the amount of contaminated air that could leak into the face-piece.

Why do I need one?

The fact is, toxic fumes and particles can penetrate even the tiniest gap between your face and the RPE. If this happens, the effectiveness of the RPE is drastically reduced. According to WorkSafe guidelines it is an employer's duty to ensure all workers are fit tested at least annually, and also if there have been any significant changes to the wearer's face.

How often should a fit test be performed?

Every worker should be fit tested at least annually. They should also be re-tested if they:
  • Gain or lose weight.
  • Have any significant dental work.
  • Have any facial surgery.
  • Have any scaring around where the RPE seal fits.

What if I wear glasses?

During the fit test you should wear anything you usually would when using your RPE. This may include glasses (prescription or safety) or anything that may come between the RPE and your face. Anything that comes between your face and the respirator's seal or gets into the respirator's valves can allow contaminated air to leak into the respirator face-piece and you will not be protected.

Do I need to be clean shaven?

YES. This is very important. Not just for the test, but for anyone wearing tight fitting RPE in the workshop. Even a day's worth of stubble can hinder the seal between your face and the RPE, and therefore it's effectiveness.

What if I fail the fit test?

It's not you that will fail the fit test, it's the respirator. If the respirator fails to provide a good seal around your face, then it's not working and you need to keep testing with other sizes or types of respirator until you find one that does fit. It is an employer's job to provide RPE suitable for each employee.

Air quality is extremely important. Fumes and particles found in a metal workshop can be extremely dangerous - read our blog here: The danger of welding fumes - cancer & other effects

Who can do the fit test?

Any competent person who knows how!

How do I do a fit test?

You can either buy a fit testing kit, or you can arrange a test with a supplier or work health professional. Click here for information on Fit Testing with Euromarc

What happens once the test is over?

You should walk away knowing the type and size respirator that best fits your face, and how to use it. From there you should always use the specified respirator to ensure maximum protection at work. Guidelines set by WorkSafe state that it is the employers duty to have employees fit tested and to provide suitable RPE.

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