Qualitative fit testing is a less commonly used method of evaluating respirator fit. Typically, it is used for workers that would be required to wear either a disposable paper mask or respirators that just cover their nose and mouth, or half-mask respirators.
Qualitative fit testing works by detecting leakage of the respirator using your sense of taste and/or smell. It is a pass or fail method that relies heavily on the subjective reports of the individual and for this reason is not the preferred method.
Quantitative fit testing masks and respirators to ensure that all legislative requirements are meet and that the workers are fit tested for the correct use of their respirators and or mask.
- Not all respirators will fit all faces
- Poorly fitting respirators will leak contaminants into the breathing zone
Why is Fit Testing Important?
People come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and so do personal respirators. Because of this, a perfect facial fit is paramount in obtaining optimum protection. A poor fitting respirator may lead to leakage of contaminants into the breathing zone, thereby compromising the safety of the wearer.
Respirator Fit Testing is required at the following times:
Pre-placement: for all workers undertaking tasks in production, processing or maintenance for the first time, or when moving to a new coal mine or employer
Periodic: every year, for all workers who are currently, or have in the past undertaken tasks in production, processing or maintenance in any industry that requires a respirator to be worn
Testing is conducted in accordance with the Australian Standards AS/NZ 1715:2009 Selection Use and Maintenance of Respiratory Protective Equipment (half face, full face and disposable masks) and is suitable for all respirator brands.
Quantitative fit testing is used for any full face and/or tight-fitting respirator. It involves an instrument a ‘Portacount machine’ that measures the leakage around the face seal of the respirator and providing a numerical value called a fit factor. This fit factor then provides an indication as to whether the chosen respirator provides adequate seal protection for the individual. Quantitative fit testing is considered the gold standard for workers exposed to hazardous particles in the workplace.
Obligation from the employer
Workers who undertake tasks relating to production, processing or maintenance must complete a Respirator Fit as a component of their medical assessment at the following times: At pre-placement medical assessment, prior to commencing work in a coal operation – if this is their first time working every year.
As the employer YOU MUST PROVIDE THE RESPIRATOR they will be using for the assessment.
Obligation from the worker
You must bring to your appointment the RESPIRATOR PROVIDED BY YOUR EMPLOYER (or future employer)
You must remove all facial hair. Facial hair will interfere with the respirator fit. The complete sealing surface of the respirator must be in contact with the wearer’s skin.
You must remove any piercings and makeup. All forms of jewellery that may interfere with the facial seal must NOT be worn. Facial make-up and creams applied to the face should not be worn as they may interfere with the face seal.
Which respirators and dust masks need to be tested? Bring to your appointment the type of mask you would wear at work. Any tight-fitting mask must be tested. This includes:
- All disposable masks known as either P2 or N95 masks
- Full-face masks
- Full-face self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) masks
- Full-face powered air purifying (PAPR) masks
Why do I need to provide the Respirator?
There are a multitude of respirator devices being used across the coal mining industry. It is not feasible for a medical provider to maintain a store of all these devises. However, it is necessary for the worker to be assessed with the device they will be using.
Respirator fit testing assesses whether the respirator assigned to a person forms an adequate seal around their face and verifies whether the wearer is provided the required level of protection against exposure to hazardous atmospheric contaminants.