N95 Mask Fit Testing (An essential part to HealthCare PPE)
What is a fit test?
- A “fit test” is used to determine if a respirator such as an N95 or KN95 mask is a good fit for the user’s face. It is performed on the person who is going to wear a respirator. Achieving a good fit is necessary for the respirator to work properly.
- Fit testing is an essential component in the Health Care industry and is as important as wearing gloves. It falls under essential PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment).
What are the risks of wearing a mask that doesn’t fit properly?
- The most important thing to remember is that if a mask doesn’t fit properly and is not sealed, it is not doing its job. This means that if a worker has not been fit tested on the mask they are going to use, there is no assurance that it will keep them safe or prevent airborne particles from making them sick.
When do workers need to get fit tests?
- At least every two years according to the CSA (Z22.214.171.124)
- Whenever changes to the user’s physical condition could affect the respirator fit such as due to weight gain or loss, surgery, or major dental work
- If they are using a new respirator make or model.
How long does a fit test take?
- There are a lot of factors that can make the process go faster or slower such as if each worker needs to have multiple masks tested.
- In general, it takes about 10 minutes per person to conduct a quantitative fit test and 15 to 20 minutes for a qualitative fit test.
Is there anything workers need to do to prepare for a fit test?
- There are a few things workers need to do before their test. In order to ensure accurate results for a qualitative fit test, anyone getting a fit test cannot eat, drink, chew gum or smoke in the half-hour before a test. Drinking water is fine.
What happens if a worker fails a fit test?
- If a worker fails their test, then this means that the respirator is not a good fit or that a good seal was not achieved. If adjusting the respirator does not achieve a better seal, then the worker should not use that make and model of a respirator. For this reason, some organizations may choose to have their workers tested on multiple-sized masks during their fit test to help ensure their workers find the right respirator.
- If there isn’t a mask available that a worker can pass their fit test on, they should talk to their supervisor or employer about the next steps. This could include finding a different make and model of a respirator.
- Valid for two years and issued on completion of the test. One may have to retake the test again (before the expiry date) should one gain weight, lose weight or have facial structure changes (e.g.: plastic surgery).