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Home » Infectious Diseases » How the Right Respirator Fit Testers Can Protect Healthcare Workers

More than ever, healthcare professionals know the importance of a properly fitted respirator.

“COVID has heightened everybody’s awareness of respiratory protection, and the need for respirators to fit in order to provide protection and safety,” says Greg Olson, M.S., global product specialist for Industrial Hygiene and Respiratory Protection at TSI Incorporated, a key player in the global respirator fit testing market.

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Under OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, employers are required to ensure healthcare personnel have initial fit tests for the same make, model, style, and size respirator they’ll be using for personal protective equipment. The fit tests must be repeated annually, and whenever there is a change in the respirator or significant changes to the wearer’s facial shape.

The respirator must properly fit the worker to provide the expected level of protection from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. “That respirator has to fit, or it’s not going to protect,” says Olson.

TSI’s PortaCount® Respirator Fit Testers can help ensure that the highest respiratory protection levels are achieved through a properly sized and correctly donned respirator. Olson says this test, “acts as the final exam in the implementation of your respiratory protection program.”

PortaCount® Respirator Fit Testers using the modified CNC protocols are now nearly twice as fast as instruments using the controlled negative pressure (CNP).

Fit factor

According to Long Yang, a technical sales specialist for TSI, a fit test measures three things: that the respirator model is a good match to the facial features of the healthcare worker, that it’s the right size, and that it’s worn/donned properly. 

He says often people think any N95 respirator will automatically protect them but that’s not the case. A poor quality N95 respirator or one not sized correctly or worn improperly is very likely to fail the PortaCount® quantitative respirator fit test. 

PortaCount quantitative fit tests are objective, exact, and consistent for every administrator. With the modified protocols, you can comply faster without compromising safety.

There are two primary OSHA-accepted ways to fit-test respirators: qualitatively and quantitatively. With a qualitative test, which takes 20-25 minutes, a tester wears a hood and is exposed to 75-225 nebulizer squeezes of either a Saccharin (sweet) or Bitrex™ (bitter) tasting challenge agent. “If you taste it, then there’s a leak,” says Long, noting the qualitative test is subjective and can be messy and even claustrophobic while having to wear a hood over the head during the fit test.

The PortaCount® respirator fit test is a quantitative test that can test all types of respirators, including N95 respirators. It only takes two minutes, 29 seconds to complete, requires significantly less prep and set up time than the qualitative test, and respirator wearers can get a real-time look at their fit with features like FitCheck® Mode, reducing fit test failures. The PortaCount® Respirator Fit Tester is not just a fit tester, it is a training tool as well. No other fit test methods (e.g., qualitative or Controlled Negative Pressure (CNP)), can be used to provide respirator donning training, which is an essential advantage for Respiratory Protection Program Administrators in implementing their Respiratory Protection Programs.  

Improved respirator protection

While a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health study confirmed any fit test method significantly improved respirator protection, they found quantitative testing with the PortaCount® Respirator Fit Testers of N95 simulated workplace protection factors was the most impactful.

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The PortaCount® Respirator Fit Tester was the only tested method in the study in which 100 percent of the test subjects exceeded the OSHA Assigned Protection Factor of 10, meaning the air inside the respirator was 10 times cleaner than the air outside the respirator

“You want to make sure that you have the best equipment that’s easy to use and that your employees will want to be fit tested with it and trust it,” says Long, noting TSI provides training and tech support too.

Find out more about TSI’s respirator fit testing equipment at

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