Wearing a respirator is crucial for employees working in conditions where they could breathe in polluted air, vapors, or fibers. If you work in a hazardous area with harmful dust, fumes, gases, etc., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires you to wear respirators. You must conduct a medical examination and respirator fit test before wearing a respirator.

The purpose of the Respirator Fit Test

The respirator fit test ( for example n95 respirator fit test) ensures that the respirator forms an adequate seal with the user’s face to provide the intended protection.


How often is fit testing of respirators required?

  • When a different style, model, make, or size of respirator will be used.
  • When changes in face occur, that could affect fit, such as significant weight fluctuation, face surgery, face scarring, or dental work.
  • In addition, you should retest every 12 months to make sure the respirator still fits with your face.


How long is a Respirator Fit Test good for?

The test takes about 15 minutes to be completed. It is usually conducted annually. After passing the test, the exact same make, model, style, and size of the respirator must be used on the job.


What does the Respirator Fit Test Cover?

The questionnaire will be reviewed by a Physician or a Licensed Health Care Provider( PLHCP) and offers a recommendation for the employee and employer.

The PLHCP’s recommendation mostly covers three items:

  1. Whether the employee is medically fit to wear the respirator and suffers any medical limitations for using it.
  2. If the employee needs further medical evaluations.
  3. A statement indicating that the employer and employee have been provided with a copy of the recommendation.
Respiratory Fit test

Respirator fit test requirements

There are a few things an employee needs to do before their respirator fit tests begin:

  • Choose a respirator. Picking a respirator for your job, you should consider what toxins you are exposed to, job responsibilities, exposure time, the concentration of the toxins, etc.
  • The equipment must be NIOSH-certified. You need to bring the chosen respirator to the Fit Test.
  • Bring protective equipment. You should bring any personal protective equipment (PPE) to the test that could interfere with the respirator’s seal. These items may include hearing protection, face shields, hard hats, coveralls, and safety glasses.
  • Because facial hair can interfere with a respirator’s fit, OSHA requires you to be clean-shaven.
  • Complete a medical evaluation questionnaire. OSHA regulates that you complete and bring a Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire (RMEQ). A physician or a licensed Health Care Provider (PLHCP) must review the RMEQ before the test.


Different reasons that diminish the effectiveness and fit of a respirator

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Dental work or facial surgery
  • Significant scarring in areas that seal meets skin.
  • Facial hair (beard, goatee, mustache)
  • Glasses or protective eyewear


Do I have to shave for a respirator fit test?

Facial hair can impair the effectiveness of the respirator fit test. This test can not be performed in the following conditions:

  • You have a beard
  • You have a goatee or mustache that extends past the seal of the respirator.
  • You have more than one day’s hair growth on your face.

People with facial hair should pay attention to the following:

  • Shave your face on the day of the test.
  • Shave your face daily while you have to use a respirator
  • If you have done a fit test with goatee or mustache, try to keep your facial hair as short as possible to ensure the respirator’s proper function.


Is a fit test required for an n95 respirator?

As mentioned, fit tests are necessary in order to obtain the expected level of protection. Therefore, tight-fitting respirators such as the N95s should be checked regularly to ensure their best fit.

How to do a fit test for respirators?

If the worker is cleared to wear a respirator, they will go through one of two fit tests:

  • Qualitative fit test.
  • Quantitative fit test.

Respirator Fit Test

How do you perform a respirator fit test?

Respirator fit test is performed in two ways:

  • Qualitative Fit Testing
  • Quantitative Fit Testing

In the following, we will explain the details of each of these tests.


What does a Qualitative Fit Testing cover?

It is a test that uses your reaction, taste, smell, or sense to an irritant to determine the leak in the respirator facepiece. It shows you whether there are any holes or gaps in the mask seal or if your mask is in good working condition.


Four different qualitative tests are allowed by OSHA:

  • Bittrex: leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
  • Isoamyl Acetate: a banana-like smell.
  • Saccharin: a sweet taste in your mouth
  • Irritant Smoke: causes coughing.


Some exercises are performed in the Respirator Fit Test for one minute.

  • Normal breathing
  • Deep breathing
  • Moving head side to side
  • Moving head up and down
  • Bending over
  • Talking
  • Normal breathing again

If the worker/employee does not detect any irritation or smell during the first round of tests, the Respirator Fit Test is passed. The worker is safe to wear their respirator.


What does Quantitative Fit Testing cover?

Quantitative fit testing evaluates the exact amount of leakage into any tight-fitting facepieces. Instead of only relying on senses and bitter-tasting chemicals, this method is conducted by a machine calculating the measurements.

The respirator’s filter detects which agent is tested.


Three acceptable quantitative methods by OSHA:

  • Controlled negative pressure
  • General aerosol
  • Ambient aerosol

When the test is complete, each eligible employee is issued a card, including the size, model, and make of the type of respirator they got a passed Fit Test

Qualitative vs. Quantitative respirator fit test results

Qualitative tests are generally performed on half-mask respirators. Half-mask respirators refer to masks that cover only the user’s mouth and nose. But quantitative tests are done using the machine and show the actual amount of leakage into the facepiece and do not rely on the sense of smell, taste, or irritation.


What Kind of Respirator Do you Need?

The working conditions may require you to wear a full-face respirator or a half-mask respirator depends on the Assigned Protection Factor (APF). APF is a number to show the level of protection that a respirator can be expected to provide if it is used properly. While organizations have different standards for respirators, APF dominates all the other standards and is the base that employers must comply with them.


Respirator Fit Test In Las Vegas

It is estimated that each year 12,000 people die due to work-related lung diseases. Respirator Fit Tests are an essential element in OSHA regulations, which is easy to lose track of. Respirator fit test is an important tool to keep your employees/workers safe and healthy from environmental hazards.

We offered everything you need to know about the Respirator Fit Test and the most frequently asked questions by our clients at Southern Nevada Occupational Health Center (SNOHC). For more information about services performed at SNOHC, you can navigate through the menu of this website. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.


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