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ANSI/AIHA/ASSP Z88.10-2010: Respiratory Fit Testing Methods

“A standard for carrying out the proper way to carry out fit testing was long overdue and has been immensely helpful in the field of respiratory protection. At OHD, we commend those who further our mission of protecting the world’s workforce.”

Dr. Stephanie Lynch, PhD, OHD, LLP, Product Manager, Occupational Health Dynamics (OHD). 205-980-0180.

Over 3 million United States employees, in approximately 1.3 million workplaces, are required to wear respiratory protection.

A fit test is conducted to verify that a respirator is both comfortable and correctly fits the user. Fit test methods are classified as either qualitative or quantitative. A qualitative fit test is a pass/fail test that relies on the individual’s sensory detection of a test agent, such as taste, smell or involuntary cough (a reaction to irritant smoke*). A quantitative fit test uses an instrument to numerically measure the effectiveness of the respirator. The benefits of a fit test include better protection for the employee and verification that the employee is wearing a correctly fitting model and size of respirator. Higher than expected levels of exposure to a contaminant may occur if the respirator has a poor face seal against the user’s skin, which can result in leakage.

Fit testing uses a test agent, either qualitatively detected by the wearer’s sense of taste, smell or involuntary cough (irritant smoke) or quantitatively measured by an instrument, to verify the respirator’s fit. The intent of fit testing is to evaluate sealing surface leakage. Other sources of leakage may contribute to the total leakage detected.

About the Standard

The purpose of this standard is to provide clear and consistent guidance with regard to the respirator fit testing components of an effective respiratory protection program.

The respirator fit test itself is simply one facet of fit testing. An effective program requires much more, including a qualified person to perform the fit test. This standard provides guidance on exactly what knowledge and skills are necessary in order to perform as a qualified fit test operator.

This standard contains information to aid program managers and fit test operators in preparing to perform a proper fit test. This includes guidance regarding potential interference from other personal protective equipment with the respirator, detailed information on respirators used for fit testing, selection of respirators prior to fit testing and other considerations that must be met if the fit test is to be effective.

A single fit test exercise protocol cannot model all workplace activities encountered by respirator users. Recognizing this, the standard provides flexibility regarding fit test exercise protocols.

Exercises may be selected that are more representative of actual workplace activities, including repeated respirator donning.

Included in the Standard:

  • Qualifications of a Fit Test Operator
  • Medical Evaluation
  • Training for Respirator Wearers
  • Interference Concerns
  • Frequency of Fit Tests
  • Respirators Used for Fit Testing
  • Choosing the Respirator
  • Test Requirements Common to All Fit Tests
  • Required and Elective Fit Test Exercises
  • Duration of Fit Test Exercises
  • Record Keeping
  • Training Records of Fit Test Operators
  • Required and Elective Fit Test Exercises
  • Exercise Description
  • Evaluation Form for Respirator Fit Test Operator

Good to Know

  • According to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health[1], a successful fit test only qualifies an employee to use the specific brand/make/model and size of respirator that he or she wore during that test. Respirator sizing is not standardized across models or brands. For example, a medium in one model may not offer the same fit as a different manufacturer’s medium model.
  • Facial hair that lies along the sealing area of a respirator, such as beards, sideburns or some mustaches, will interfere with respirators that rely on a tight facepiece seal to achieve maximum protection. A common misconception is that human hair can act as a crude filter to capture any particles that are in the airstream between the sealing surface and the user’s skin. However, facial hair is not dense enough and the individual hairs are too large to capture particles like an air filter does; nor will a beard trap gases and vapors like the carbon bed in a respirator cartridge. Therefore, the vast majority of particles, gases and vapors follow the air stream right through the facial hair and into respiratory tract of the wearer. In fact, some studies have shown that even a day or two of stubble can begin to reduce protection.

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