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  • Writer's pictureRebekah McCutcheon

TO FIT TEST OR NOT TO FIT TEST, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Updated: 6 days ago

What masks actually require a fit test? With such a broad spectrum of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) available we are here to provide some assistance on the types of RPE that require a fit test.


Respirators are often called masks by slang, there is a significant difference between the two. Masks are used to create a barrier and protect against aerosol droplets caused by sneezing or coughing, mostly used in surgery or other medical procedures. Masks are not tight fitting, nor do they filter the air you breathe as they are not made with particulate filtering materials. Most respirators on the other hand are tight-fitting, designed to purify the air you breathe and reduce in inhalation of harmful airborne hazards/contaminations.


TO FIT TEST, OR NOT TO FIT TEST?



Tight-fitting is defined by the masks’ need to make contact to the wearers face in order to form a seal to be effective so that it can provide the appropriate level of intended protection. The ‘seal’ so to speak is the respirator making full uninterrupted contact to the wearers skin, this is why facial hair is required to be removed, it interferes/obstructs the masks ability to form a proper seal.


Once fit tested into a particular brand, model, or size, it is of the upmost importance that you continue to use that exact same brand, model and size on the job that warrants the use of your respirator in the workplace.


Anytime you are issued a different brand, model or size respirator, you should also be fit tested into that mask to ensure you receive that masks’ full intended protection also, and so on.


To be effective, your respirator must be:


  • Right for the hazard

  • Right for the task  

  • Right for the wearer

 

THE TYPES OF RESPIRATORS REQUIRED TO BE FIT TESTED

 

DISPOSABLES RESPIRATORS

 

Correct term is a ‘Filtering Facepiece’ respirator

 

In Australia respirators are labelled as Filtering Facepiece FFP1 and FFP2, although they are typically nicknamed a P1 or P2.

 

There are valved and non-valved options, the valve is designed to provide greater comfort and easier breathability especially on hotter days with claims of being 3-4 degrees cooler inside the valved respirator compared to the non-valved option.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | P2 Respirators that require a fit test

N95 MASK

 

Called masks, these are also respirators.

 

More of an American name that we have adopted here in Australia, an N95 is almost the equivalent to the Australian made P2, both offering roughly 95% filtration. N95’s are mostly found in the healthcare sector as they meet the requirement for a higher level of fluid protection (level 3) whilst meeting TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administrator) approval deeming them suitable to be classified as a reputable healthcare product.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | N95 Respirators that require a fit test


ELASTOMERIC HALF FACE RESPIRATORS


With a variety of filters, these respirators are designed to be reused with the functionality of applying appropriate filters to identified hazards, some brands allow you to stack filters to increase the range of protection against a variation of airborne hazards/contaminations.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | Half Face Elastomeric Respirators that require a fit test

 ELASTOMERIC FULL FACE RESPIRATORS


With principles much like the half face, full face elastomeric respirators provide a greater level of skin and eye protection resulting in a higher assigned protection factor (APF) as a result.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | Full Face Elastomeric Respirators that require a fit test

 

TIGHT FITTING – POWERED AIR PURIFYING RESPIRATOR (PAPR)

 

It is much easier to breathe in a PAPR, this equates to increased comfort and longer wear time. These respiratory protective devices offer a much greater level of respiratory protection thus assigned an even higher protection factor. Some PAPRs are multipurpose integrating other types of PPE, such as hard hat and face shield.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | Tight Fitting PAPR Respiratory Protective Equipment that require a fit test

LOOSE FITTING PAPR – NO FIT TEST REQUIRED

 

A loose fitting PAPR does not require a mask fit test and allows the wearer to maintain a personal preference of keeping facial hair.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | Respiratory Protective Equipment that require a fit test

 SUPPLIED-AIR RESPIRATORS (SAR)

 

These are the only options to be used in places where oxygen levels have been depleted or are unknown as they provide protection against oxygen-deficient atmospheres.

 

SELF CONTAINED BREATHING APARATUS (SCBA)


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | Respiratory Protective Equipment that require a fit test

These are designed to provide a continuous supply of clean breathable air to the wearer for extended periods of time. SCBAs consist of a full facepiece or hood, and a compressed air cylinder. 

You will see these typically worn by firefighters, emergency response personnel, and workers in hazardous environments where the air quality cannot be guaranteed.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | Tight Fitting SCBA Respiratory Protective Equipment that require a fit test

AIR-LINE RESPIRATORS


You can see these look much like a full face or SCBA respirator although they are designed to connect to an air-line.  

These rely on a source of clean compressed air supplied through a hose connected to a stationary air source pumped by a generator or a portable air cylinder.


FIT TEST AUSTRALIA | Tight Fitting Air-Line Respiratory Protective Equipment that require a fit test

REMINDER ABOUT YOUR RPE


When selecting respiratory protective equipment, it is essential to consider various factors that could impact their effectiveness. These factors include:


ContaminantThe type of contaminant present in the workplace or work environment is a critical factor when selecting RPE. The level of toxicity, particle size, and the physical form of the contaminant will determine the type of RPE that is suitable.


Task: The type of task being performed will affect the RPE selection. For example, if the task requires a high level of physical exertion, it may be necessary to select RPE that provides a higher level of breathability.


Operator: It is essential to consider the physical characteristics of the operator when selecting RPE, such as facial features, medical conditions, and facial hair. These factors can affect the fit and seal of the RPE and consequently reduce its effectiveness.


Equipment limitations: The limitations of the RPE, such as the filter's lifespan, its effectiveness against specific contaminants, and the level of protection it provides, ongoing maintenance, should be considered when selecting the RPE.


Special response to HAZMAT incidents: In situations where hazardous materials are involved, special response teams require specialized RPE that can provide high-level protection against the specific contaminants present.


The selection of RPE should be based on a thorough risk assessment and the specific needs of the workplace or task at hand. Filter selection is equaling vital as incorrect filters for hazards recognised can leave workers exposed to the very risks they are trying to gain protection from.


Worker health is your wealth. Every breath you take matters.


Fit Test Australia is your go to for all your fit testing needs, if you want to book a fit test or understand more about your RPE contact FTA.


Your health and safety is our priority

Call: 0403 064 064

FTA fit test Melbourne Victoria and Sydney NSW







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