Mask Fit Testing
Respiratory Protective Equipment FIT TESTING
Respiratory Protective Equipment is used to protect workers from inhalation of particulate matter, toxic gases and vapors encountered on the job (e.g. dust, asbestos, benzene, toluene, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, etc.). Required under the Alberta Occupational Health & Safety Code and CSA Standard Z94.4-02, fit testing is a key element of respirator safety.
The performance of tight fitting face pieces (full-face mask, half-face mask, filtering face piece) relies heavily on the quality of the fit. An inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer. Industry depends on Certified Technicians to conduct Medical Surveillance testing as part of its Health & Safety Program’s policies.
Before using a respirator, HealthyWorker perform a screening of the worker’s relevant health history as it specifically related to the use of Respiratory Protection. From this screening, the worker may require other assessments including review of their current physical and psychological status, Pulmonary Function Tests and a chest X-rays as may be required by Occupational Health and Safety Alberta Legislation and / or Company specific policies and procedures.
SPIROMETRY: Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT)
Safety assessments are required for employees working in environments that are high risk for lung and respiratory damage. Spirometry (meaning the measuring of breath) is the most common of Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTS) measuring lung function, specifically the measurement of the amount (volume) and speed (flow) of air inhaled and exhaled. In simple terms it measures how well you are breathing. Spirometry is an important tool in assessing conditions such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Occupational health is primarily concerned with COPD’s. This is a disease of the lungs where the airways become narrowed and limits the air flow to and from the lungs causing shortness of breath, coughing, excess sputum or mucus production, wheezing, chest tightness, tiredness and can lead to respiratory failure if left untreated.
Intense and prolonged exposure to noxious particles or gases can cause irreversible damage to lung functioning if unchecked. Workers exposed to dust, silica, lead, asbestos and industrial chemicals such as cadmium, mercury, lead, isocyanates and fumes are particularly vulnerable. The likelihood of developing COPD increases with smokers. Some industries requiring Spirometry include: wood working, painting, milling, welding, roofing, rock crushing, road construction, coal mining, asbestos abatement, pulp and paper, and vehicle spray liners.
Performing the test is relatively simple.
The Spirometer consists of a mouthpiece and disposable tubing connected to a machine that records the results and displays them on a graph. The employee inhales deeply, closes the mouth tightly around the tube and then exhales while measurements are being taken. Some test measurements are obtained by normal breathing, and other tests require rapid and forceful inhalation and/or exhalation. The volume of air inhaled or exhaled, and the length of time each breath takes is recorded and analyzed to identify for signs of airway obstruction.
In addition to analyzing lung capacity, Spirometry testing is useful in determining a worker’s ability to use equipment such as negative pressure respirators.
HealthyWorker offers PFT’s in our health clinic, mobile clinic and at your worksite. Our technicians are available to come to your work site with portable equipment to conduct on-the-spot testing. PFT assessments are reviewed by our Respiratory Therapist prior to releasing results. These options allow for greater ease in managing employee health and productivity.
Our specialists are recognized as Certified Spirometry Technicians meet the standards set forth by NOISH. HealthyWorker can provide:
i On-site Pulmonary Function Tests
ii Data Management and reporting
iii Worker education at the time of testing, and
iv Permanently documented records to meet compliance with Provincial Occupational Health and Safety legislation.
MASK FIT TESTING / RESPIRATORY PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT TESTING
There are two major categories of fit test, Qualitative (pass/fail basis) and Quantitative (scientific measure basis).
QUALITATIVE FIT TEST
This fit test uses an irritant smoke or odorous material. Testing of this kind is acceptable and limited to checking filtering face pieces and half-mask respirators. The respirator wearer uses their sense of smell to detect leakage. These tests are fast, require no complicated equipment, and are easily performed. The outcome relies on the wearer’s subjective response (pass/fail). During this assessment a variety of procedures are used to detect and correct leakage around the face piece and face seal of the Respiratory Protective Equipment: Negative Pressure Test, Positive Pressure Test, Full Range of Motion Assessment of the head / neck / face / mouth, Communication by speech assessment, Bitter Test, and / or Sweet Test.
QUANTITATIVE FIT TEST
This test is designed for tight fitting full-face masks. Quantitative fit-testing requires: a test substance which can be introduced into the air, specialized equipment to measure the airborne concentration of the substances and a trained tester.
HealthyWorker’s new, calibrated, Quantitative Fit Testing device will allow Companies in Southern Alberta to perform high quality testing that is normally only available in larger urban cities.
A quantitative fit test gives a number that is referred to as FF: fit factor (the measure of how well a particular face piece seals against the wearer’s face). A higher FF means the face piece has achieved good contact between the seal and face and will suitably protect the wearer against leakage of harmful contaminants into the mask. Examples of quantitative fit testing methods include:
1. Laboratory Test Chamber
2. Portable Fit Test Devices:
3. Particle counting device, and
4. Controlled negative pressure device.
It is vital that the selected Respiratory Protective Equipment is adequate and suitable for the purpose. Respiratory Protective Equipment must reduce exposure to as low as reasonably practical; in any case to an acceptable level. HealthyWorker employs fully trained technicians that will provide Qualitative and Quantitative testing that ensures Employers provide premium protection for their workers.