Fit testing is an essential function of any good respirator program. And the failure to wear a properly-fitted respirator can result in your ultimate demise. When we conduct respirator training or perform fit-testing, we instruct participants on when to retest. This is especially if certain events occur, such as dental surgery or weight loss. Often, our trainees will look at us with great surprise and say, “Really?”
So, today I want to explain why retesting the fit of your respirator is so essential.
What Does the Fit Test Do?
A respirator fit test ensures that your face and the respirator can form a seal. Only then will the respirator be able to filter out contaminants, toxins, or deadly substances from the air you breathe. Any small microscopic gap in the seal can result in death. This is why it is crucial to perform a proper fit test and ensure the seal makes contact with all portions of your face. It should also hold firm under all facial movements.
The fit test is your last defense against exposure and ensures your respirator will protect you.
When Do I Need to Retest?
I mentioned earlier that certain events could trigger the need to retest the fit of your respirator. This is because your facial structure could very well change, which could break the seal on your respirator. Here are some examples:
If you undergo dental work, such as removing a molar or tooth or getting a crown or braces, this will change the shape of your face. I am not saying this will change your face drastically, but it could push out your upper lip or create a slight depression in your cheek. This can affect how your respirator forms to your face. That little difference could create s small gap or airway for contaminants to pass through.
Weight Gain or Loss
Another change would be if you gain or lose considerable weight, usually over 5 pounds. This could add or detract from your facial contours. Again, changes to these contours can result in an imperfect respirator seal to your face.
You might also undergo facial surgery or even minor cosmetic surgery. If you receive Botox treatments have moles removed, or any other form of skin shaping, you will need to retest the fit of your respirator.
Lastly, we may need to redo the fit test if you are involved in some accident that affected your face. A scar on your face can affect the respirator seal interface. A broken jaw doesn’t always heal in its original alignment, either. These changes would require a retest.
It’s Not Hard To Do
Refitting you with your respirator is quick and easy. The process takes no longer than 15 minutes, but you will need to have a qualified fit-tester present to conduct the test.
You should be refitted and tested whenever you feel you’re not getting a good seal. Sometimes respirator manufacturers will modify how they make their products. They might have a new factory, introduce a new process, or use new materials. So this could also affect the fit when you switch to a new respirator, even if you use the same model.
I cannot encourage you enough that you make sure you are refitting your respirator annually at a minimum. Honestly, it would be best to do it whenever any of the events discussed above occur. You also should do it whenever you feel you’re no longer getting good results from your respirator.
Watch our video above as Matt and I go into more detail about what is involved in a fit test.