The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a part of the CDC. Organizationally, NIOSH is dedicated to the mission of conducting research and suggesting solutions for problems relating to occupational safety. OSHA uses this research information from NIOSH to set safety requirements for workers in the field.
In 2019, NIOSH updated the standard testing procedure for N95 series filters. This testing procedure is designed to help people who must wear N95 respirators for their occupations. These tests help ensure that the respirators are properly fitted to prevent workers from breathing in dangerous aerosols while on the job.
Knowing how to properly fit your PPE while you're at work can help you stay protected from airborne particles like viruses and chemicals.
Whether you're using a 3M N95, Makrite N95, Champak N95 it's very important to perform these fit tests at least once per year to ensure that your PPE is right for you. If you fail the tests and are unable to properly fit your PPE, you will need a new respirator to protect you.
This type of fit testing, also known as a "taste test," is a pass/fail test that uses your own senses to detect a leakage in the respirator. Qualitative tests don't detect levels of leakage, but instead just detect that a leak exists. These tests rely on the ability of the mask wearer to taste or smell an irritant.
To perform the test, you'll start by wearing a hood. Your partner will spray an irritant (either isoamyl acetate, saccharin, Bitrex or irritant smoke) into the hood until you can taste or smell the irritant. Next, you'll put on the mask until it fits properly, and then you'll put the hood back on.
Once the hood is positioned over your head, your partner will spray the irritant into the hood to see if you can detect the irritant with the respirator on your face. If you cannot detect the irritant when you're wearing the mask, then you've passed the test. Testing kits are available, so if you're in need of a test for your N95 mask, find a type of test kit that works for you.
Quantitative fit testing is a type of testing that uses a machine to measure whether leakage is present in a respirator, and if so, how much. Quantitative fit testing does not rely upon any sense of smell or taste in order to arrive at test results. If you are a mask-wearer hoping to have this type of test performed, you'll start by attaching a probe to the face piece. This probe is then connected to the machine that measures whether there is a leak.
The machine may test generated aerosol, controlled negative pressure, or ambient aerosol. This type of fit testing can be used for any type of tight-fitting respirator.
Tips for Performing N95 Tests
The way you perform your fit test will help determine whether your test is done correctly. Follow these tips to perform the test the right way:
- If you normally wear glasses while wearing your respirator, put on your glasses for the fit test.
- Get retested at least once annually, or more often if necessary.
- Get fit tested with the specific make and model of the type of respirator you plan to use. If you change respirators at some point, then re-test.
- Get re-tested if you lose a significant amount of weight, grow a beard or change your physical appearance in some way that affects how you wear a respirator. For example, if you get dental surgery that changes the shape of your mouth or teeth, get retested.
If you're required to use N95 masks for your occupation, purchase your masks from a reliable supply company. Keep a fresh supply on hand at all times and get fitted whenever necessary. Med Supply Inc has the medical supplies you need to stay safe on the job. Take a look at our supply of 3M N95, Makrite N95 and Champak N95 masks to purchase a high quality product that can help keep you safe.