Respirator Fit testing is a Quantitative test where a specific model and size respirator is confirmed as a “good fit” for each face. This takes into consideration the persons’ face shape, the seal between the respirator and face and fitting. The overall fit factor of a respirator is calculated by measuring the ambient particles in the room compared to the particles in the respirator. The individual performs a variety of movements during the fit testing such as bending over, talking, moving their head side to side and up and down, as typical movements in work place to see if any movements affect the fit. Fit testing also indicated what respirator model, style and size are not a good fit for an individual’s face.
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Australian employers are becoming more aware of the biological risks and responsibilities in their workplace. There are increased requirements for employees to wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and with the introduction of National guidelines and practices (AIOH Guidance document, RESP-Fit and AS/NZS 1715 etc) requiring the wearing of masks both in and out of the workplace, navigating the complexities of PPE can be challenging. In many situations, employees are not provided with adequate training on the correct procedures of donning (putting on) and more importantly, doffing (taking off) the PPE.
In recent months, the Australian market has been flooded with N95 and P2 masks and many workplaces have adopted a “one mask fits all” approach to face masks. Unfortunately, many respirators are made to set sizes and not all faces are the same. Biosafety International has been providing mask fit check and fit testing services to Australian government agencies and companies and has recently updated our service offering to include PPE information and training to run alongside the fit testing service. Participants in the session are given an overview of what a biological risk is (not just COVID-19), how they can minimize their risk by using RPE/PPE and PPE training – what is it, why they wear them and how to put them on and take off properly. Participants then take part in a fit check and fit test session on the respirators they wear in the workplace. Fit check and testing helps people understand how to wear masks properly, how their day-to-day work actions and movements affect the effectiveness of the mask and whether the respirator they wear is “the right fit” for their face.
When should a respirator fit test be completed?
If you have selected a new respirator style or brand, ensure your choice of the respirator is "fit for purpose" before proceeding with your respirator fit test. What is your respirator filtering? What do I need my respirator to filter?
At least annually and at any time, your facial characteristics change in any way or a significant face structure change, such as facial hair.
Excessive potential contaminant exposure if a biological risk assessment shows you are at a high risk of exposure. It is essential to continually monitor your environment and ensure your mask is at the standard you require.
For more information on indoor air quality testing click here
A Guide to Buying P2, or Equivalent, Respirators for use in the Australian & New Zealand Work Environment
Primary Authors: Kate Cole MAIOH Certified Occupational Hygienist (COH)® CF, Cole Health Jane Whitelaw FAIOH Certified Occupational Hygienist (COH)® CIH®, University of Wollongong
Reviewers: Terry Gorman & Andrew Orfanos, Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) Suzanne Broadbent, New Zealand Occupational Hygiene Society (NZOHS) David Clarke, Australian Institute of Health & Safety (AIHS) Dr Claire Bird, Wayne Anderson and Brett Cole, Indoor Air Quality Association Australia (IAQA)