Respirators are a form of personal protective equipment that provide respiratory protection against airborne contaminants.  Respirators will either filter the ambient air or they will provide clean breathing air. 

What is a Fit Test?

A respirator fit test consists of several exercises during which the test subject is wearing the respirator to be tested and the ratio of the particulate concentration inside the mask to the ambient concentration is measured. 

OSHA Requirements

OSHA requires that respirator fit testing be done on tight fitting respirators.  If the respirator does not rely on a tight seal around the face, it does not require testing. Tight fitting respirators require both qualitative and quantitative fit testing, these are separate testing methods testing separate safety features of the respirator fit.

Fit Testing Frequency

Respirator fit testing must be done prior to using a mask on the job as well as every year after the initial test. Testing must be redone if there are any major changes to the face of the user; such as major dental work, facial scarring, a visible change in weight or facial surgery. 

Qualitative vs Quantitative Fit Testing

Quantitative Fit Testing:

Data-Backed Test

Using fit testing equipment to measure the leakage around the face seal of the respirator mask to give a “fit factor”. A fit factor of 100 is required for half-mask respirators and a minimum fit factor of 5000 for a full face piece negative-pressure respirator. 

The user should be able to do the following without reaction; breathing normally, breathing deeply, turning head from side to side, moving head up and down and talking. As well as a “grimace test” where the user smiles or frowns for 15 seconds.

Methods of Testing Set By OHSA:

  • Ambient Aerosol – Using a probed respirator to sample the air from inside the mask. A probed respirator has a special sampling device, installed on the respirator, that allows the probe to sample the air from inside the mask. A probed respirator is required for each make, style, model, and size and can be obtained from the respirator manufacturer or distributor. 
  • Controlled Negative Pressure – As an alternative to aerosol fit test methods, this method exhausts the air from a temporarily sealed respirator face piece to generate and then maintain a constant negative pressure inside the face piece. The measurement of the exhaust stream that is required to hold the pressure in the temporarily sealed respirator constant yields a direct measure of leakage air flow into the respirator. 
  • Generated Aerosol – Using a high concentration of an aerosol into a booth or test chamber, a photometer based aerosol detector will measure the challenge agent that leaks into the face piece.

Qualitative Fit Testing:

Verbal Sense-Based Test

Pass/fail test measuring a subject’s ability to detect any leakage of gas into the respirator based on taste, smell or reaction to an irritant by the user.

Using OHSA’s approved methods of testing, the user should be able to do the following without reaction; breathing normally, breathing deeply, turning head from side to side, moving head up and down as well as talking. This testing applies to half-mask respirators such as N95 face masks.

Types of Testing Methods Set By OSHA;

    • Isoamyl Acetate Screening – odor threshold screening, performed without wearing a respirator, is intended to determine if the individual tested can detect the odor of isoamyl acetate at low levels (banana smell).
    • Saccharin Solution Aerosol Screening – taste threshold screening, performed without wearing  a respirator, is intended to determine whether the individual being tested can detect the taste of saccharin (sweet tasting).
    • Bitrex (Denatonium benzoate) Screening – taste threshold screening, performed without wearing a respirator,  is intended to determine whether the individual being tested can detect the taste of Bitrex (bitter taste). 
    • Irritant Smoke (Stannic Chloride) – test uses a person’s response to the irritating chemicals release in the “smoke” produced by a stannic chloride ventilation smoke tube to detect leakage into the respirator of the irritant smoke.

Quantitative Fit Testing Equipment

Cutting-edge respirator fit testing machines can help to save lives with the most accurate testing possible.

Designed with all respirator users in mind, the AccuFIT9000 is an ideal solution for industrial, first responder, and healthcare respirator users who are looking for one product that can address all of their fit testing needs in an affordable way.

Respirator’s need to be tested annually and if there are any changes in the physical appearance and/or structure of the face.

  • Annual Re-Testing
  • Change in weight that is visible in the face
  • Dental Work
  • Facial Surgery
  • Facial Scarring
Learn More About Accutec-IHS Products

Respirator Fit Testing FAQ

What does a fit test consist of?

A fit test consists of several exercises during which the test subject is wearing the respirator to be tested and the ratio of the particulate concentration inside the mask to the ambient concentration is measured.

These exercises are designed to stress the face-to-respirator seal. Please refer to 29 CFR 1910.134 for a complete description of the fit test protocol.

Where can I get a respirator fit test done?

There are a number of contractors who provide fit testing on a contract basis. (We are currently having an internal argument/discussion about whether to list these contractors who use the AccuFIT 9000 on the website.)

How long is a respirator fit test good for?

The fit test is good for one year for the particular person and respirator brand and model tested.

Do I have to shave for a respirator fit test?

29 CFR 1910.134 is very unambiguous here – clean-shaven respirator seal area is mandatory. The onus is placed on the person administering the test to ensure that this is observed. The regulation goes even further; it is mandatory that the person must also be clean-shaven while wearing the respirator in the performance of the work duties.

How much does a respirator fit test cost?

Typical charges for a fit test range from $30-50.

Do all respirators require fit testing?

Refer to 29 CFR 1910.134. If it is determined that a condition exists that would mandate the wearing of a tight-fitting respirator, it must be fit-tested.

Common Workplaces Requiring Respirator Fit Testing

Respirators are used in variety of fields and disciplines. Fit testing requirements may vary between industry by frequency of testing or specified testing methods.

First Responders – The dangers that first responders and firefighters face vary greatly but include explosions, fire, falling debris, and many more. The contaminants in air can provide damage to individuals who do not have a properly-fitted respirator.

Chemical –  Any workplace that requires individuals to work directly with chemicals will have specific requirements for respirators too. While the style of the respirator mask varies, they’re all built to protect individuals against various organic vapors and gases. The filter needs to be specific to the type of protection.

Military – Our military personnel face all types of hazardous materials and the respirator is made to protect them from chemical and biological agents, along with radiological fallout particles, and many other various potentially harmful inhalants.

Healthcare – Healthcare personnel can be exposed to diseases transmitted when infectious agents are suspended or present in particles or droplets. In such cases, respirators would be used and need to be tested.

Resources for Respirator Fit Testing