Respirator Fit and Fit Testing

Fit testing is required for employees wearing tight-fighting respirators, such as disposable or reusable respirators. This procedure helps ensure the user has selected the correct size respirator and that a seal against the face can be made in order to provide the expected protection.


Illustration of lab worker giving qualitative and quantiative respirator fit testing

Qualitative and quantitative fit testing

3M Centre for Respiratory Protection

Overview of the Fit Testing Process

Tight-fitting respirators must seal to the wearer’s face in order to provide expected protection. This includes disposable respirators (also called “filtering facepieces”). Fit testing is required by Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS1715 before a user wears a respirator on the job, and should be assessed at least annually. In addition, fit tests should be performed:
 

  • Whenever a different size, style, model or make of respirator is used.
  • When any facial changes occur that could affect fit, such as significant weight fluctuation or dental work.

AS/NZS1715 doesn’t require fit test administrators to be certified, just to know how to conduct a test, recognize invalid tests, and properly clean and maintain equipment.

There are two kinds of tests: qualitative and quantitative.

  • Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT)

    A qualitative fit test (QLFT) may only be used to fit-test:
     

    • Negative-pressure, air-purifying respirators, as long as they’ll only be used in atmospheres where the hazard is at less than 10 times the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
    • Tight-fitting facepieces used with powered and atmosphere-supplying respirators.

    QLFT is pass/fail and relies on the user’s senses using one of he AS/NZS 1715 accepted test agents:
     

    • Isoamyl acetate (banana smell); only for testing respirators with organic vapor cartridges.
    • Saccharin (sweet taste); can test respirators with a particulate filter of any class.
    • Bitrex® (bitter taste); can also test respirators with particulate filters of any class.
    • Irritant smoke (involuntary cough reflex); only for testing respirators with level 100 particulate filters.

    Each QLFT method uses seven exercises performed for 1 minute each:
     

    • Normal breathing.
    • Deep breathing.
    • Turning head side to side.
    • Moving head up and down.
    • Talking.
    • Bending over (or jogging in place if fit test unit doesn’t permit bending at the waist).
    • Normal breathing again.

    View our online catalog for qualitative testing products.

  • Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT)

    A quantitative fit test (QNFT) can be used to fit-test any tight-fitting respirator. It involves using an instrument to measure leakage around the face seal and produces a numerical result called a “fit factor.” There are three accepted QNFT test protocols:

    • Generated aerosoluses a non-hazardous aerosol such as corn oil generated in a test chamber.
    • Condensation nuclei counter (CNC) uses ambient aerosol and doesn’t require a test chamber eg Portacount

    A fit factor of at least 100 is required for half-mask respirators and a minimum fit factor of 500 or 1000 for a full facepiece negative-pressure respirator depending on the protection factor required in use.  

    Learn more about fit testing of Respirators (PDF, 2.41MB)

    View our online catalog for quantitative testing products.


3M Respirator Fit Testing Procedure Equipment

View all fit testing products

View our online catalog of products to help you run a successful fit testing program.

  • image of quantiative respirator fit testing hood
    Qualitative testing products

    Find apparatus hoods, nebulizer and other products for qualitative testing.

  • image of respiratory fit testing kit
    Fit testing kits

    Find testing kits with apparatus hoods, nebulizer and solution options.

  • image of qualitative respirator fit testing product
    Quantitative testing products

    Find disposable and reusable respirators for use with fit testing as well as test adaptors.

  • image of probed disposable respirator for fit testing
    3M™ Secure Click™

    Quantitative Fit Test Adapter kit is available!


Digitize the fit test process with the 3M™ Wear it Right app

Make the task of qualitative fit testing less tedious with the tap of a button. Test both reusable and disposable respirator wearers and perform up to five fit tests at one time.

 

  • Digitize the fit test process for Disposable & Reusable Respirators
  • Model-specific guided fit tests
  • Global fit test protocol and language support
  • Print and email fit test certificates
  • In-app record keeping

 

Wear it Right app is compatible with iPad and requires iPadOS 14.0 or later.

3M Wear It Right ImageDownload on the App Store

  • worker donning a disposable respirator with Wear it Right app
    Follows OSHA fit testing protocols

    Preloaded with OSHA & ISO qualitative fit test protocols and meets OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.134, Appendix A and ISO 16975-3.

  • team getting respiratory fit testing
    Convenience just a download away

    Qualitatively tests both reusable and disposable respirator wearers with Bitrex® or Saccharin.

  • worker participating in a respirator fit test with the wear it right app
    Two modes, One app

    The app has two modes – one for fit testers who need less step-by-step guidance and one for those who prefer more detailed guidance.

  • safety manager importing worker details in wear it right app
    Go paperless with easy recordkeeping

    Import wearer details & export fit test records, eliminating the need to track manually.


illustration of two workers wearing respirators will the seal highlighted in blue
Does respirator fit matter?

If a worker's respirator doesn't seal properly, there's no certainty it is providing the expected protection.

WATCH: IMPORTANCE OF RESPIRATOR FIT
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A good fit means the respirator will seal your skin. A respirator can only work when air passes through the filter. Air will take the path of least resistance, so if the seal isn't there, the air will go around rather than through the respirator - and therefore the lessen the protection.

  • Illustration of guy wearing disposable respirator with safety eyewear
    Compatibility with other PPE

    Safety glasses, hearing protection, face shields, hard hats and coveralls can all vie with a respirator for real estate on a person's face, head or body.

    To catch these problems before they happen on the job, AS/NZS 1715 and ISO 16975.3 requires any PPE that could interfere with the respirator's seal to be worn during the fit test.

  • Illustration of a guy wearing disposable respirator with the seal highlighted in blue
    User seal check: An essential everyday test

    A user seal check ensures the tight-fitting respirator is being worn right each time the user puts on the respirator. Employees are required to do so by AS/NZS 1715 and ISO 16975.3 regulations unless the use is voluntary

    Users can either perform a positive-pressure or negative-pressure seal check as described in the product User Instructions.

    OSHA user seal check procedure


Positive-pressure seal check means blocking the exhalation valve on a half or full facepiece respirator or covering the respirator surface on a filtering facepiece, usually by using your hands, and trying to breathe out. If slight pressure builds up, that means air sin't leaking around the edges of the respirator.


Negative-pressure check involves blocking the intake valves on a half or full facepiece respirator or covering the respirator surface on a filtering facepiece, typically using your hands and trying to breathe in. If no air enters, the seal is tight.


Fast Facts About Fit Testing

Fit testing is not only required by AS/NZS 1715; it’s vital to respiratory safety. This list provides some of the whys and hows of fit testing.

  • Fit tests must be performed before use of a tight-fitting respirator.
    In addition, OSHA stipulates that fit testing of employees must occur at least annually; whenever a different size, style, model or make of respirator is used; and when any physical change occurs that could affect fit (such as, for example, significant weight fluctuation, dental work, or other facial changes).
  • Also known as filtering facepieces, these tight-fitting respirators must be fit-tested before mandatory use at a job site.
  • If the employer provides respirators for voluntary use but they aren’t required, they don’t need to be fit-tested – but 3M still recommends it.
  • However, the AS/NZS1715 standard does recommend that fit testers should know how to conduct a test, recognize invalid results, and properly clean and maintain equipment.
  • A qualitative fit test (QLFT) may only be used to fit-test certain negative-pressure, air-purifying respirators and positive-pressure, atmosphere-supplying respirators. It relies on the user’s ability to detect a particular taste, smell or irritant. A quantitative fit test (QNFT) can be used to fit-test any tight-fitting respirator. It involves using an instrument to measure leakage around the face seal and produces a numerical result called a “fit factor.”
  • The workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is expected to provide to employees when the employer implements a continuing, effective respiratory protection program as specified by AS/NZS 1715 Without fit testing, there’s no way of knowing if the respirator is actually able to provide its advertised level of protection for a specific worker.
  • A respirator can only work when air passes through the filter. Air will take the path of least resistance, so if the seal to the face isn’t secure, the air will go around rather than through the respirator. Therefore, it is essential to ensure a proper fit when wearing tight-fitting respirators.
  • Respiratory protection is often worn simultaneously with other personal protective equipment (PPE). Safety glasses, hearing protection, face shields, hard hats and coveralls can all vie with a respirator for real estate on a person’s face, head or body, and could interfere with the respirator’s seal. Fit testing should ensure that equipment is compatible and doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the respirator due to a compromised face seal.
  • Beards, mustaches, or even stubble interfere with the seal of a tight-fitting respirator. That’s why AS/NZS 1715 requires that employees be clean-shaven the day of the fit test and prohibits any facial hair in areas where the respirator comes into contact with the face.
  • That’s why fit testing involves several exercises, such as head turning and speaking. This determines the respirator’s ability to retain its seal when the worker is in motion.
  • RESPFIT Image
  • 3M are proud to be an official support of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienist (AIOH) RESP-FIT respirator fit testing training and accreditation program.

    RESP-FIT main objective is to improve respirator fit test competencies in Australia. They have developed a training course syllabus that training providers can develop their course against. They have also developed an accreditation process for fittesters to go through as a external assessment process as evidence of their competence. They also list fittest service providers who employ accredited fit testers.
    Visit www.respfit.org.au for further information.


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