Respirator Fit Testing
Where an individual is required to wear a respirator to carry out their job, employers have a responsibility to ensure respirators are properly fit tested by an accredited specialist in accordance with the requirements of the associated Australian Standard and Safe Work Australia guidelines.
Respirator use in the workplace
Employers have an obligation to provide their employees with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to meet the needs of their job and, in many workplaces, respirators form part of this essential PPE. Respirator use is especially important at the moment, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and Australian regulations contain mandatory requirements for the use of respiratory protection in certain industries such as:
- Coal mining
- Building and construction
- Spray painting
- Stone working
- Industries that deal with hazardous chemicals or fumes
- Industries that deal with infectious substances
Australian regulations around the occupational use of Respiratory Protective Equipment
Respirator use is essential in industries where employees are at risk of occupational exposure to substances and environments that can result in the development of occupational lung diseases, including asbestosis, asthma, silicosis and Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP).
According to Safe Work Australia, occupational lung diseases are a priority condition under the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022, which seeks to raise awareness of employer responsibilities around control measures for minimising or eliminating airborne contaminants that cause occupational lung disease in the workplace – and use of appropriate and properly fitted respirators is one such control measure.
An organisation is required to implement a Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) program where air monitoring has been carried out and the level of exposure has been assessed as being more than the level allowed under the exposure standard. According to the applicable WHS Regulation, an RPE program should include:
- providing suitable RPE –
- the level of protection provided by the respirator must be suitable for the level of air contamination in the environment.
- the filter in the respirator must be suitable for the type of airborne contaminants in the environment.
- fit testing (if relevant to the RPE used).
- a facial hair policy for tight fitting respirators – facial hair can interfere with respirator fit by preventing some types of respirators from properly sealing to the skin.
- a use, maintenance, and repair policy.
- provision of information, training, and guidance to workers.
Why should you Fit Test?
When a worker is required to wear a respirator as part of their essential PPE, it is because exposure to respiratory risk factors cannot be removed or reduced to acceptable levels. As the risk of exposure remains in the work environment, respirators rely on an airtight seal in order to be effective, so it is necessary to ensure that tight-fitting respirators fit the user correctly. Fit testing assesses the effectiveness of the seal between the respirator and the wearer’s face, to determine the potential for contaminated air to leak into the respirator.
Because each individual has different facial characteristics, and it is improbable to assume that one size or model of RPE would fit every employee, a wide range of sizes and models of respirators is available. The respirator should be selected in consultation with the worker to ensure individual fit and medical and psychological factors have been considered.
To comply with the current Australian regulations, respirators must comply with AS1716 (the standard number should be displayed somewhere on the respirator or its packaging) and fit testing should be performed by a competent fit testing specialist.
Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS1715 requires that fit testing be performed before a user wears a respirator on the job for the first time and should be assessed at least annually. Fit tests should also be conducted whenever a different style, size, make or model of respirator is used, and when any facial changes occur that could affect fit – for example, significant weight fluctuation or dental work.
How can Hayden Health & Safety help your business meet its respirator fit testing obligations?
The respirator fit testing conducted by Hayden Health & Safety ensures that Respiratory Protective Equipment – including N95, P100 and N99 masks, FFP1, FFP2, FFP3, hood or head top type full-face and half-face powered and non-powered air-purifying respirators and supplied-air respirators – is fitted correctly to provide the highest level of protection to each individual wearer.
Hayden Health & Safety offer an efficient, non-disruptive on-site respirator fit testing service. Our custom-made, specially designed, fully contained and equipped mobile testing vehicle can visit your site anywhere in NSW and conduct testing in a systematic way that enables your business to continue to operate with minimal downtime and disturbances to your work processes.
Hayden Health & Safety can also provide respirator fit testing to both individuals and businesses at our office, conveniently located in Cardiff NSW.
A written record of the results of fit testing will be provided to you for your WHS records, including:
- date of testing
- type of test performed
- make, model, style and size of respirator/s tested
- results of testing
Where can you access more information on occupational respirator fit testing?
For more information on the respirator fit testing process, assistance with developing a RPE program for your business, or to arrange for a Hayden Health & Safety representative to meet with you to discuss your fit testing needs and design a testing schedule that suits your business, please contact us today.