If you have prepared for a respirator fit testing session, you are probably already aware of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards that require workers who are exposed to dangerous contaminants in the air to wear a respirator. Although it may not seem important, having a properly-fitted respirator can potentially save a life. There are a few things to be aware of to help facilitate a smooth testing experience.
The first step in the process for establishing compliance with OSHA is to make sure employees who need to wear respirators all day during work are healthy enough to do so. The health of the workers needs to be determined through a medical evaluation. All employees must have a medical evaluation done in order to perform their duties with a respirator. In most cases, this evaluation consists of completion of a respiratory questionnaire. Some employees may require further evaluation, including pulmonary function testing and possibly a physical examination by a healthcare professional. If the employee does not pass the medical evaluation, or fails to get one, then they are not cleared to wear a respirator at work.
Prepare the Face
Once the employee has been cleared as medically fit to work with a respirator, the next step is to assess whether any facial hair could interfere with the seal between the mask and the face. If so, if must be removed.
People who have beards and other excessive facial hair, can run into the issue of hairs interfering with the seal that blocks out harmful contaminants. All it takes is a tiny opening in the seal to allow enough vapor, gas, particles, etc. into the lungs where injury and illness can occur. If hair causes gaps in the respirator mask seal, the mask will be ineffective. The only solution to avoid facial hair problems is to shave off any hair that will compromise the safety of the respirator. This should be in practice all year round, not just before the test is performed
Glasses and Eyewear
People that wear glasses and other eyewear often have problems when wearing a respirator mask. Fortunately, workers who need to wear a full-face respirator fit testing can wear respirators equipped with an optical correction lens. OSHA requires employers to provide those who wear respirators with an optical corrective lens when necessary in order to obtain the best possible fit.
At the end of the test, the employee will be given a card that provides the make, model, and size of the respirator worn when the test was passed. The card will also have the name of the employee and the date of the test. The employee should be prepared to use the same respirator for the rest of the year until the next test is done. Also, if there are any major facial changes for the employee such as dental work, injuries, scars, weight change, etc., the employee will need to get another fit test as soon as possible. If those exceptions are not present, then once the employee completes a successful fit test, you will be compliant with fit testing requirements for another year.
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