Qualitative Respirator Fit Testing

What Is Qualitative Fit Testing?

A respirator can't protect you if it doesn't fit your face. It's that simple. If your respirator doesn't fit your face properly, contaminated air can leak into your respirator facepiece, and you could breathe in hazardous substances.

So what is a fit test? A "fit test" tests the seal between the respirator's facepiece and your face. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to complete and is performed at least annually. If an employee is using a NIOSH-approved respirator, OSHA requires an annual fit test for that employee. After passing a fit test with a respirator, you must use the exact same make, model, style, and size respirator on the job.

Qualitative fit testing is normally used for half-mask respirators—those that just cover your mouth and nose. Half-mask respirators can be filtering facepiece respirators - often called "N95s" - as well as elastomeric respirators.

Qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test method that uses your sense of taste or smell, or your reaction to an irritant, in order to detect leakage into the respirator facepiece. Qualitative fit testing does not measure the actual amount of leakage. Whether the respirator passes or fails the test is based simply on you detecting leakage of the test substance into your facepiece. There are four qualitative fit test methods accepted by OSHA:

  • Isoamyl acetate, which smells like bananas;
  • Saccharin, which leaves a sweet taste in your mouth;
  • Bitrex, which leaves a bitter taste in your mouth; and
  • Irritant smoke, which can cause coughing.*

Home Depot Pro offers Qualitative Fit Test kits to help you remain compliant with OSHA's requirement and protect your staff and yourself from harmful particulates.

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*Source: OSHA, "Respirator Fit Testing," https://www.osha.gov/video/respiratory_protection/fittesting_transcript.html

View Honeywell's Qualitative Fit Test Instructional Video

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