What is a Qualitative Fit Test for N95 Respirators?

In these troubling times, one of the most effective methods we have to “flatten the curve” is proper respiratory protection. Although many methods are currently being deployed to create effective respiratory protectors, there is no replacement for a certified N95 respirator or better.

N95 Respirator- Defined

An N95 respirator is defined as a NIOSH certified respiratory protection device that filters 95% of particulate matter but does not guard against oils. 

Along with this N95 respirator comes a responsibility to ensure proper fit testing is performed. N95 Fit testing is essential because it measures the ability of the respiratory equipment to prevent contaminants or dangerous inhalants from entering into an individual’s airways. However, this can be a complicated process, so it is best to look at the relevant factors concerning respiratory equipment qualitative fit testing.


Qualitative vs Quantitative Fit Testing

Two types of testing generally apply to all types of testing. The first is qualitative fit testing which, essentially, gives a yes or no answer for acceptability. In the case of fit testing for N95 respirators, this means that an individual being tested will properly don their mask, and then be exposed to a harmless odor or chemical. If the seal of the N95 respirator is secure, they will be unable to detect this odor and the test will be considered acceptable.

Conversely, quantitative testing is a broad form of testing that will produce a measurable result. Again, using the example of N95 fit testing, a subject would don their mask and appropriately fit it to their face, and then be exposed to a similar odor or chemical. However, the difference in this circumstance is that the interior of the mask would be tested with a porta count machine (or equivalent) and a measurable result would be available from the testing equipment. This reduces individual bias for fit testing.

Options for Respirator Fit Testing

N95 masks are an ideal choice for those who don’t wish to repeatedly don the same respirator, but they are currently in high demand and may not be readily available. If respiratory equipment is required for work being performed, it is better to upgrade then downgrade. This means switching to a half-face or full-face respirator. 

While these respirators are used repeatedly, they are also made out of materials that reduce the ability of bacteria to collect on their surfaces. Often, these materials include silicone which is beneficial for its relative ease of maintenance and cleaning. Furthermore, the actual filters on half or full-face respirators can be changed regularly meaning their longevity is further increased.

Rocky Mountain Mobile Hearing Testing is your locally owned and operated Calgary business. We are committed to providing mobile hearing testing services and other safety tests, to numerous industries and companies in Western Canada. Our services are part of the WorkSafeBC Provider Network, while our sound booths are approved by the CSA. We offer audiometry testing, mask fit testing, custom earplugs, noise measurements, help with implementing a hearing conservation program, and spirometry testing. If you want to improve your workplace, leave it in the hands of our team. Contact us today on (403) 399-4775.    

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