In order for you to have the full protection of a NIOSH-approved dust mask, it’s necessary to have it fit tested. This will ensure that the mask will have a perfect fit, and that no leaks will be present. It could affect the mask’s ability to prevent you from breathing in potentially harmful contaminants that can lead to a respiratory illness or lung disease.
When you wear a NIOSH-certified mask, it’s essential that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to wear it right. A guide is always packed with the mask in its original packaging or container. In order to make sure that you have the right mask to protect your health you will need to undergo fit testing with your employer to verify that you are properly protected.
Fit testing is a standard safety routine that is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It is to be performed on workers who are required to wear a respirator mask on the job. Since respirators can only do their job when it’s worn properly, this requirement is should be verified by all employers. It helps to guarantee the health and safety of their employees.
Before the fittest is performed, the wearer is required to consult with a medical professional for evaluation. If there is a YES in the answers to the questions provided, a person will not be allowed to do fit testing.
It’s important to note that you are not allowed to eat, drink, and chew gum 15 minutes prior to testing.
After being briefed on the first two steps, it’s time to move to the sensitivity testing portion of the exam. Also known as the taste threshold screening. During this step, you will be asked to wear a testing hood that will create a proper testing environment. With an open mouth and the tongue slightly extended, a saccharine aerosol will be added to the hood. If the wearer feels clammy he/she should report it immediately to the person initiating the test. He/she is then required to remove the NIOSH-certified mask and rinse his/her mouth with water before continuing with the fit.
During this step, the wearer will be asked to don both the respirator and the testing hood. The saccharine aerosol will be introduced to the hood again every 30 seconds. The full amount of the first time and then half the original amount of the proceeding times. During the introduction of the aerosol, no sweetness should be detected. An effective mask should be able to filter out all the aerosol particles. If sweetness is detected, proceed to step 5.
If the wearer tastes the sweat while wearing the NIOSH certified dust mask, the technician should be notified immediately and the testing hood along with the respirator mask should be removed and the mouth should again be rinsed with water. This signifies that the respirator mask that was used was not the right fit. Another size of respirator mask will then be used, and fit testing will be done again.
For your safety, it’s better to be sure that you are equipped with the right type of protection. When working with dangerous chemicals or in an environment with dangerous particles in the air always have a dust mask ready. Most importantly, don’t forget to switch to a new one frequently. Ideally, at least every 8-10 hours to prevent contamination from outside sources.