[Disclaimer: This paper is based on current United States federal OSHA requirements 29 CFR 1910.134 in place as of March 2015. U.S. state or other country requirements may be different. Requirements can change in the future. No warrantees are made. This paper contains general information as of the date of this presentation and should not be relied upon to make specific decisions.]
Appropriate respirator selection is a critical step in respirator program management. However, with particulate respirators, some environmental health and safety (EHS) professionals may focus on filter efficiency, while not paying proper attention to ensuring proper fit. The greatest source of leakage for a particulate respirator may not be through the filter, but through the face-to-seal fit. While compliance with regulatory requirements is an important reason for fit testing particulate respirators, a solid fit testing program provides several additional opportunities to advance the effectiveness of the employer's respiratory program. Through effective fit testing as part of the employee training, the respirator program manager can help ensure appropriate respirator selection. The result is a worker who is knowledgeable, well protected, and comfortable.
The following points covered in this paper may help the EHS professional in their practice:
Information regarding how to identify which respirators need fit testing, and when fit testing should be performed
The key advantages and limitations of the various qualitative and quantitative fit test methods, and issues to consider when selecting the method most appropriate to a particular work environment
A better understanding of how the fit and comfort of a respirator work in conjunction to help provide appropriate protection
Answers to frequently asked questions from both EHS professionals and workers regarding fit testing of particulate respirators