Healthcare Respiratory Protection Should Include Respirator Fit Test For N95 Masks

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Preventing the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases (ATDs) to healthcare personnel.

Hospitals and other healthcare environments contain hazards such as bacteria, viruses, and chemicals that may be inhaled by personnel and cause injury or illness.

Healthcare personnel, like nurses and doctors, provide patient care that may potentially expose themselves to ATD pathogens. Aerosols droplets suspended in air can contain diseases transmitted when infectious agents contact the mucous membranes or are inhaled.

We understand this clearly as we faced two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An N95 mask is a filtering facepiece respirator because of how it creates a tight seal to the face and filters at least 95% of the airborne particles the user would otherwise breathe in. 

N95 respirators provide superior protection for droplet‐transmitted infections, based on a 2017 report on the efficacy of medical masks and respirators against respiratory infection in healthcare workers.

However, a respirator cannot protect your employees if it does not fit their face.

Importance of respirator fit tests for N95 masks

If a respirator doesn’t fit your face properly, contaminated air can leak into the respirator facepiece, and you could breathe in hazardous substances.

These surgical N95 respirators are class II devices regulated by the FDA, under 21 CFR 878.4040, and CDC NIOSH under 42 CFR Part 84.

When it comes to OSHA, there are unique rules and recommendations surrounding respirators and employee health and safety.

Staff that must use any respirator are required to undergo respirator fit testing, medical clearance, and training as required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134. 

A respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee. The employer shall provide respirators which are applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The employer shall be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a respiratory protection program. The employer is responsible for ensuring that a medical evaluation is performed to ensure that using a respirator will not place a physiological burden on the employee.

respirator fit test determines if a tight-fitting respirator seals appropriately and does not leak. It should only take place after an employee has been medically cleared to wear a respirator and before the employee actually wears it on the job.

An employee should be fit tested when they are first issued an N95 and then annually thereafter.

If you are considering using N95 respirator masks at the workplace, here are some important tips:

  • Comply with the OSHA 29 CFR § 1910.134 regulations
  • Perform initial fit tests for each HCP with the same model, style, and size respirator that the worker will be required to wear
  • Explain to workers the importance of performing a user seal check each time they put an N95 mask on to make sure they are getting an adequate seal from their respirator
  • If the mask seems to be broken, workers should inform their supervisor or their respirator program administrator immediately

Choose CNS Occupational Medicine for your respirator physical and fit test

Our Occupational Medicine Team follows a specific process for every employee that is tested, including a respirator fit test

  • Prior to any employee evaluation, employers are required to complete an information evaluation form on each employee
  • The employee will be evaluated using the mandatory OSHA “Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire”
  • When an employee is medically cleared to wear a respirator, the PLHCP clinician will provide the employee and employer with a written medical opinion for respirator use
  • After being medical cleared for respirator use, the employee may undergo a respirator fit test

Schedule your respirator physical, medical exam, and fit test today.

For more information, contact us at 800.551.9816 or info@cnsoccmed.com.