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Respiratory Mastery – The Pre-use Fit Check

- September 9, 2016 by Guest Bloggers (View all posts by Guest)

Airborne containments can pose a serious threat to workers’ health. To prevent injury and illness from those contaminants, employers must determine the severity of the threat, and if needed, provide controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce that threat. It is estimated that five million workers throughout the U.S. are required to wear respirators at their place of work

When selecting respirators for the workplace, OSHA requires that different sizes or types be made available to ensure that workers can select a respirator that provides them with the best fit. A Fit Test conducted by a qualified Fit Tester can confirm that an employee has chosen the right respirator. Selection and fit testing will be covered in more detail in upcoming blogs. This post will focus on the User Seal Test (the positive/ negative pressure test): a test that should be performed each time the respirator is worn to ensure that it fits properly. The guideline below is normally done when using ½ Mask or Full-face cartridge-style respirators

Be sure to refer to the instructions provided by your respirator manufacturer for specific guidance on performing the seal test. The seal test consists of two steps: 

The Positive Pressure Test

  1. Put on (don) the respirator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Cover the exhalation valve with the palm of your hand (be careful to avoid distorting the mask by using gentle pressure against the valve cover).
  3. Slowly exhale, which will pressurize the mask.
  4. If there are no leaks, then you will notice the mask expand away from your face BEFORE the seal is ultimately broken by the increasing pressure.

The Negative Pressure Test

  1. Put on (don) the respirator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Cover and seal the filter cartridges using the palms of your hands. Note: if you can’t get a good seal with your hands, small sections of plastic wrap can be used on the surface of the cartridges to create a seal.
  3. Slowly inhale and hold your breath for about 10 seconds. You should notice the respirator partially collapse (slightly) against your face. While you’re holding your breath, the respirator should stay in the collapsed condition.
  4. If the respirator stays somewhat collapsed for the full 10 seconds, then a good seal has been achieved.

Each time a respirator is used; it should be properly donned, fit-checked, and re-adjusted as needed. By following these easy steps, you will be reducing the risk of worker exposure to workplace chemicals, as well as expanding their quality of life by providing them with a safe and healthy workplace!