Guide to fit testing respiratory masks
The correct fitting of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is critical to make sure a tight seal is made around the face which means the respirator is able to prevent contaminants.
However, facial hair such as stubble, beards, moustaches and sideburns, long hair, jewellery and makeup can all prevent a tight seal from being formed, meaning that regular fit testing is essential.
When prescription glasses are worn in conjunction with RPE, both should be tested to ensure effectiveness is not compromised while comfort is also key, as it will encourage wear.
Fit and seal testing
AS/NZS 1715:2009 describes two types of respirator fit tests – qualitative and quantitative – that can be used to establish a match between the facepiece of the RPE and face of the wearer.
It states that a qualitative or quantitative fit test should be performed before a respirator is used and then “at least annually or whenever there is a change in the wearer’s facial characteristics or other features which may affect the facial seal of the respirator”, which includes weight changes, loss of teeth or when biological tests indicate exposure to a contaminant.
Before each use, the RPE should be worn prior to the worker entering a contaminated area and a positive or negative pressure check performed by the user to check the fit.
Commercial qualitative testing kits are available but are subjective to the user and so not necessarily reliable.
Quantitative test methods remove this subjectivity by using equipment to measure the efficiency of a respirator and how effectively it can prevent materials entering the user’s breathing zone.
Qualitative and quantitative respirator testing is carried out with the help of a specialist who will determine a suitable approach tailored to your requirements.
Despite this, neither should substitute for pre-use positive and negative fit testing which are essential and will function as a simple backup seal assessment.
Pre-use positive and negative fit testing is now easy with ProChoice Safety Gear’s Silicone Half Mask Respirator with PressToCheck Filters. It has been engineered to enable self-assessment of the Silicone mask’s seal for better protection every time.
PressToCheck is a personal, positive or negative fit test system that can be easily performed anywhere and anytime but should replace a qualitative or quantitative fit test in accordance with Australian Standard AS/NZS1715.