June 3, 2013 – The use of tight-fitting respiratory protective face pieces has been in practice for many years. Respirators play a very important role in the protection of workers, and it is essential that both workers and employers understand how to use them properly. There are various types of respirators: half-face mask, full face mask, air-purifying respirators and supplied air respirators.

The respirator must be of an appropriate size for the worker’s face, and facial hair, scars or other irregularities must not interfere with the seal. These devices are not to be worn unless the worker has passed an appropriate fit test. There are two ways to test the fit of respirators: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative fit testing involves a series of simple tests (taste, smell, irritation) to check for signs of leakage, where quantitative fit testing entails measuring leakage using special instrumentation.

Fit testing is of particular concern with the recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), just ten years after the SARS epidemic. Eight countries have now reported cases of MERS infections and the number of fatalities continues to mount. As with all novel viruses, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care continues to recommend application of the precautionary principle for healthcare workers at risk of exposure. Such precautions include the use of a seal-checked N95 respirator, until such a time where evidence suggests otherwise.

PSHSA offers Respiratory Protection, Train-the-Fit Tester training courses throughout the year. These half-day workshops train participants on the requirements within a respiratory protection program, including the education, knowledge and skills required to conduct their own qualitative fit testing (QLFT) as outlined in the CSA Standard Z94.4-11. Respiratory protection training allows employers to assess employees’ respiratory needs and protect their health and safety. To view a list of upcoming courses, click here.

PSHSA consultants provide a selection of Qualitative and Quantitative fit testing services. To find your consultant, click here.