Respirator Mask Fit Testing FAQ’s
Over the years, our office staff and trainers have come across a whole array of questions related to 3M mask fit testing. We have found that when our clients try to research this topic, there is not a lot of information available. So, we have compiled a detailed list of Respirator Mask Fit Testing FAQ’s.
Should you have any other questions that have not been addressed, please feel free to call our office at 905-672-3600. If we are missing a question you believe needs to be on this list of Respirator Mask Fit Testing FAQ’s , leave a comment or click here to let us know!
Respirator Mask Fit Testing FAQ’s:
1. Why is mask fit testing required?
Respirator mask fit testing is required in quite a few different fields of work. The most common field that requires fit testing is the medical sector. The reason being is if there is ever an outbreak of any sort, nurses and doctors should be able to grab a mask and go to work. They are exposed to a wide variety of viruses, sicknesses where masks help to protect them against anything that may be airborne.
In other fields of work, usually something construction related, mask fit tests are required to protect employees from dirt, dust, sand, toxic chemicals etc. Employees could experience serious health issues if they are exposed to contamination and do not have a way to properly protect themselves.
2. What is an N95 mask?
An N95 mask is a disposable mask. So, any type of mask that can be used for only one time is considered to be a N95 mask. This type of mask also must be CSA/NIOSH-approved and be clearly by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a surgical mask.
3. What is the difference between Qualitative Fit Testing and Quantitative fit testing?
A Qualitative fit test is the most common type of test and covers most of the regularly used workplace masks such as N95, half face and full face respirators. The test involves the taste sensitivity of the person being tested and can be applied to any type of mask that does not have its own separate air supply.
The Quantitative fit test requires the use of a Portacount machine to measure the safety of the mask via the fixed air supply. It does not rely on the test sensitivity of a subject but rather it provides a fit factor safety measurement.
Both types of tests must be conducted at least every 2 years and should be done sooner if the wearer has gained weight, lost weight or has grown facial hair since their previous test. The tests can only be performed by a qualified instructor.
4. I need a mask fit test, what do I do?
The first step is to find out when your company is having a qualified trainer come to their location to conduct the test and sign up! If your company does not want to hire a trainer, get a group of your friends together, secure a location and book a session by calling 905-672-3600 or click here for more information.
5. Is there anything I need to do before I have my mask fit test?
Yes! There is no eating, smoking or drinking about 20 minutes before the test. When it is time for your test, you will be required to fill out a short medical form consenting to the fit test and after that the trainer will take care of the rest. Unfortunately if you have any facial hair you will have to shave. This is because when you have facial hair the N95 mask cannot properly secure to the skin on your face and you will fail the test.
6. Can I have a fit test if I am pregnant?
Yes, you can. The solution we use is a nontoxic and completely digestible. We currently use Bitrex FT-31 and FT-32. Click here to read the MSDS sheet for FT-31 or Click here to read the MSDS sheet for FT-32.
7. I lost my card! Help!
If your employer had us provide your mask fit testing, we should be able to reissue you a card for a small fee. As long as you know your company’s name and when the fit test was conducted (even an approximate date) we will be able track the original documentation and reissue a certificate based on the information found.
Just remember, your mask fit test card will expiry every 24 months. If your card has expired and it is lost, we will not be able to issue you a new card unless you get a current up to date fit test.
8. I was fit tested on one mask, but my company does not have a stock of it. What can I do?
If your company is out of stock of the type of masks you are fit tested to use, you cannot supplement one type with another. For example, if you are fit tested to wear a 3M 8210 and there is only 3M8110S, you will be unable to wear a mask because that other size might not fit you correctly. If you choose to wear the mask that you are not fit tested for, this could result in serious consequences.
9. What is the Canadian government regulation on Respirator Fit Testing?
Click here to be connected to the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s website where they explain all about Respirators and what you need to know. Click here to be connected with the Canadian Occupational Safety (The Safety Standard) website where they explain the legislation compliance.
We hope the Respirator Mask Fit Testing FAQ’s featured above has been helpful. If you need further information, please contact us at 905.672.3600.
I’d like to add that sometimes certain facilities will allow facial hair as long as it completely fits inside of the respirator cup. Styles like mustaches and goatee’s could be acceptable.
I actually knew a guy who grew out his goatee almost 18 inches. Whenever he did a fit test he would roll it up like a sock and put it into his mask. At this particular facility they had no policies against this. It was fun to watch him doff his respirator though and all that hair would fall out.
Differences in protocol from facility to facility is largely a function of interpreting the OSHA standards and accommodating different cultures and values. The basics essentially say not to have anything interrupt the barrier between face and respirator.
Hi Michael, the rolled up goatee story is a first for us! Thanks for contributing to this Q/A, our goal is to always educate about best health and safety practices. We agree that the basic essential is to not have anything interrupt the barrier between face and respirator.
I heard that in 2016 they passed a law about facial hair that you cannot have more than .5″ under your bottom lip and a mustache? Thanks
Thanks for your inquiry. The most critical component of a mask fit test is the actual seal that is required for the proper fit. The following is a direct statement from the MOL website regarding the seal:
Respirator Fit: Subsection 13(1) (a) requires that respirators used in Type 1, 2 and 3 operations be fitted so that there is an effective seal between the respirator and the worker’s face unless the respirator is equipped with a hood or a helmet. In general, this means that the respirator must be of an appropriate size for the worker’s face and that facial hair and scars or other irregularities must not interfere with the seal and that these devices are not to be worn unless the worker has passed an appropriate qualitative or quantitative fit test.
Hope this is of assistance, pls contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit our website for further info.
I have a question for you. Not sure if there is a simple answer to it or not.
What kind of training do I require to be able to do N95 Mask fitting and testing myself?
You would need to locate a Train the Trainer course for Mask Fit Testing. This would provide you with the necessary training/certification to conduct N95 Mask Fit Testing on your own. If you are in the Toronto area, we can definitely help you out.
Thanks for your inquiry.
Are there special provisions for Physicians to have facial hair? Or are they subject to the same standard as other healthcare workers?
Thanks for the inquiry. Anyone, including physicians who require a respirator mask to perform their job is required to have a clean seal between their mask and skin. Facial hair is not allowed as this will create an unsafe seal.
So Ive been hearing a lot about this OSHA silica law and that company’s are required to wear respirator and I’m wondering if the company is allowed to “fit test ” there employees or do they have to get it professionally done at a facility? If the company can do it themselves then how do they do it and where would they find those kind of guidelines?
Hi Michael, thanks for your inquiry. Respirator mask fit testing can be done by an outside training company or by your company. The most important factor is that the organization/person conducting the testing has been properly trained to conduct such a test and are fully aware of the procedures and safety requirements.
I realize for an N-95 or a half or full face respirator you must be clean shaven in the area were the mask fits to your face. But my question is when using a positive pressure breathing apparatus such as S.C.B.A. are the regulations still the same for the fitting of the mask. I am curious because the positive pressure shouldn’t allow anything to come into mask.
Thanks for the question.
Facial hair, like a beard or mustache, can affect your respirator’s ability to protect you. Anything that comes between your face and the respirator’s seal or gets into the respirator’s valves can allow contaminated air to leak into the respirator facepiece and you will not be protected.
For the positive pressure breathing apparatus you mention, a PortaCount machine is used to measure air pressure inside the mask. If you have a worker with a beard, or even stubble, and they manage to tighten down their respirator to pass a PortaCount test once, it doesn’t matter because the CSA/NIOSH requirement states that you may not have facial hair that would interfere with the seal of a facepiece.
Although a worker might pass the PortaCount on a particular day, facial hair still represents an unacceptable risk of breaking the mask’s face seal. Really, the worker needs to be clean-shaven. The exceptions might be a small “soul patch” underneath the lip or a mustache so small that the seal of the mask never touches it.
Hope this helps.