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OSHA Approves 2 Additional Respirator Fit Test Protocols

Posted on 10/21/2019 by Roger Marks

Last month, OSHA approved two additional respirator fit testing protocols for inclusion in its Respiratory Protection Standard at 29 CFR 1910.134, Appendix A.

The Final Rule appeared in the Federal Register on September 26, 2019. The rule does not require employers to change or update their current fit test methods.

The two new quantitative fit test methods approved by OSHA are:
  • The modified ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter (CNC) quantitative fit testing protocol for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators; and
  • The modified ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol for filtering facepiece respirators.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Respirator Fit Tests

OSHA requires that employees using tight-fitting facepiece respirators pass one of the two types of respirator fit tests—quantitative (QNFT) and qualitative (QLFT).

The two new fit test standards OSHA added in this Final Rule are quantitative protocols, which test the respirator’s fit by measuring the amount of leakage using machinery.

A qualitative fit test, on the other hand, uses the employee’s sense of smell or taste to detect leakage of a test substance. The employee dons the respirator and is asked to detect one of four approved test substances: isoamyl acetate (which smells like bananas); saccharin (which tastes sweet); denatonium benzoate, i.e., Bitrex (which tastes bitter); and irritant smoke (which causes coughing). 

Why are Respirator Fit Tests Important?

Tight-fitting respirators will not protect an employee unless they fit properly.

Employees must be fit tested before using a respirator for the first time, and fit testing must be repeated annually. The employer must ensure that the employee is fit tested with the same make, model, style, and size of respirator that will be used. 

If the employee will wear glasses, safety goggles, or other equipment while using the respirator, that same equipment must be worn during the fit test. If changes in the employee’s physical condition could impact respirator effectiveness, additional fit testing must be done. Examples include obvious changes in body weight, facial scarring, dental changes, and cosmetic surgery.

Respirator Training Under 29 CFR 1910.134

In addition to the medical evaluation and fit testing required for all employees who wear respirators, OSHA mandates annual training for employees that covers proper respirator inspection, usage, fit, maintenance, and storage; the limitations of respirators; how to use a respirator in an emergency; and other topics outlined in 29 CFR 1910.134(k).

Respiratory Protection online training is now available in English and Spanish at Lion.com. The online course prepares employees to select, use, and maintain respirators in the workplace.

Violations of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard ranked #5 on OSHA’s most recent list of Top 10 most-cited workplace safety standards.

Tags: fit test, osha, respirator, respirator fit test, respiratory protection, respiratory safety, safety, safety protocols, safety training, worker safety

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