Breathe Easy with the Right Respirator Fit
Respiratory mask provides protection to those whose work exposes them to harmful contaminants in the air. The make, size and style of respirators are not the only factors that determine the effectiveness of a respiratory mask, but whether the mask completely seals the wearer’s face is also critical. So, before you wear the respirator mask, you have to do fit testing.
When to perform fit tests
The wearer is recommended to do fit test at least once a year. Other occasions when a fit test is urgent include:
- When you opt for a different kind of respirator.
- When facial change occur due to weight gain/loss and dental work.
The protocols to wear tight-fitting respirators, including disposable mask, should be very strict. This is because contaminants, including particles, gases and viruses can infiltrate into your body if the fit is not perfect.
There are two kinds of fit tests.
Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT)
This test can be used to fit-test air-purifying respirators as well as tight-fitting face pieces of air-supplying respirators. This test uses taste and smell to find out whether the seal is perfect.
Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT)
This can be used to fit-test any kind of tight-fitting respirator, including the n95 mask, which is a dust mask for most cases of air pollution. In this test, an instrument is used to measure breach in face seal. The numerical value of the test is known as a ‘fit factor’.
Importance of respirator fit
The whole point of wearing a respirator mask is to prevent harmful agents from entering your body. Perfect fit means the respirator will seal mouth and nose, letting the air pass only through the respirator. If there is even a slight breach, say your facial hair created a gap, the air will take that route.
User seal check
Apart from qualitative and quantitative fit-tests, wearers themselves can do fit test before they wear the respirator. These are:
- Positive-pressure check: In this, the exhalation valve is blocked and the wearer tries to breathe out. If pressure builds up inside the mask, it means the seal if perfect.
- Negative pressure check: This is blocking the intake valve and trying to breathe in. If you don’t feel any air entering the mask, it means the seal is perfect.
Before buying any type of respiratory, be it the plain surgical mask or advanced dust masks online, you need to find out if they provide perfect fit. After all, there is no point in spending your money on something that fails its purpose.
The right fit is the most important factor that determines the effectiveness of respirator. The qualitative and quantitative fit tests as well as user checks are important to ensure proper fit.