- Fit testing is crucial in ensuring maximum protection for your workers against hazardous airborne contaminants. It is also mandatory under the AS/NZS1715:2009 Selection, use and maintenance of Respiratory Protective Equipment.
- Facial hair interferes with the effective operation of a respirator. To provide protection from noxious fumes and fibres, respirators must seal to the wearer’s face. A respirator is only effective when air passes through the filter. Fit testing ensures that the seal to the wearer’s face is airtight, therefore ensuring the air passes through the respirator providing protection to the wearer. For workers who want to keep facial hair, a powered air purifying respirator with a loose hood is the most effective form of protection.
- Fit testing is required before a worker wears a respirator on the job, and should be reassessed at least once per year. Fit tests should also be performed whenever a different size, style, model or make of respirator is used and when any facial changes occur that are likely to affect the fit of the respirator such as weight fluctuation.
- Inspectors will take enforcement action where a worker has been provided with a respirator without undertaking fit testing or where facial hair is likely to prevent the seal of the respirator to the face. Where proper fit testing is not completed resulting in injury to a worker, the employer may be held liable for this injury.
- There are two methods of fit testing that meet the current Australian standards – qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative testing relies on the wearer’s ability to taste or smell a test agent and can only be used on half-face respirators. Quantitative testing uses specialised equipment to measure how much air leaks into the respirator and can be used on half-face respirators, full-face respirators and PAPR.
- Quantitative results are more objective than qualitative results as some workers are not able to taste or smell particular agents. The most popular agent in Australia is bitrex that has a bitter taste, followed by saccharin which leaves a sweet taste in your mouth.
- Fit testing must be completed by a competent individual. To find a trained professional, visit aioh.org.au. To attend a training session and become competent, please register your details here.
Want to learn more about fit testing? Watch this training video.