Things were easier when you were a small company. You may have been able to skip requirements like fit testing your employees for respirators. But no longer. As companies grow in size, so does the scrutiny they receive from regulatory agencies like OSHA. The good news is fit testing isn't complicated, and by following a few simple tips for scheduling and administering the test, you'll be done with the bare minimum of disruption to your business. You may even have improved it.
First of all you'll need a fit test kit. Both 3M and Allegro have deluxe kits that contain everything you need to make sure the face seals of your chosen respirators are working properly. The Allegro Saccharin Fit Test Kit features a hood, two vials of test solution, and an automatic fit test pump which delivers the fit test solutions at appropriate intervals. If you've never done a fit test before, or if you have new administrators working with you, this may be a good idea. While spraying the solution into the test hood at the appropriate times is not difficult, an automatic pump does take this important aspect of the test out of the hands of the administrator.
The 3M Training and Fit Test Kit has the same equipment as the Allegro kit, except it comes with manual nebulizers for spraying the test solution. It is also a training kit, so it contains laminated cards with helpful photos to aid in teaching employees how to properly wear and care for their equipment. Both brands will come with detailed instructions on the steps required for giving the fit tests. While your first test participants may take you a few minutes longer, you'll soon be moving down your checklist with ease. For scheduling purposes, allow 10-15 minutes per worker to complete the testing.
If you've tested employees for respirator fit before, you may not need the additional information that comes with the 3M Training Kit, and a simple kit may suffice for your needs. The kits come with either the sweet saccharin solution or in a kit with a bitter test solution (commonly referred to under the commercial name Bitrex). Some employees may not have a sensitivity to either the bitter or the sweet solutions, so it's a good idea to have both on hand when performing your tests. Replacement test and sensitivity solutions for both brands in either bitter or sweet can be found on our site.
The fit testing exercise can be helpful to your company in other ways. It ensures your workers know about and have been issued appropriate respiratory protection. It also maintains your OSHA compliance because your company provides a work place where respirators are necessary and it can also help you complete your office employee files.
Use the fit test requirement as a time to go over your employee files. Make sure all their paperwork is in order. If additional information is needed, this is the perfect time to collect it. When preparing for your fit test, make sure to send out the mandatory OSHA respirator medical questionnaire for employees to fill out in advance. This will make the intake process much faster. Also plan to have blank copies on hand for the employees who forget or are less computer savvy.