What Is the Proper Way to Size a Respirator?

Posted by PK Safety Team on Dec 10th 2019

What Is the Proper Way to Size a Respirator?

Respirators are designed to protect you from all sorts of potential airborne hazards, including lead and silica dust, mold, asbestos, and toxic gases. But a respirator mask won’t protect you from these hazards if it doesn’t fit your face properly. If there is any distance between the mask and the sides of your face, these toxins and hazards could easily slip inside the face mask.

Exposure to these substances can lead to a range of health concerns, including respiratory conditions, cancer, and eye irritation. If you choose the wrong size or the mask is not properly attached to your face, you could put yourself at risk.

As an employer or someone that’s looking to protect themselves from these substances, learn more about respirator sizing and how to make sure you and your team are wearing your masks correctly.

Choosing the Right Size

Most respirators come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. The size of the mask is determined by the size of the rubber seal. The rubber seal should fit over the person’s entire face, including their nose, mouth, and eyes. The larger the person’s face, the large the rubber seal needs to be.

As an employer, you need to provide a variety of sizes of masks for your team to choose from. Women tend to wear smaller sizes than men. If any of your team members have facial hair, make sure the respirator mask fits their entire face, otherwise toxic substances could slip through the cracks in between their hair and the mask.

Fit Testing Your Respirators

OSHA requires that all employers fit test their respirator masks before starting work. You’ll need to do this with both disposable and reusable respirator masks to make sure they fit properly. During the fit test, you and your team will be exposed to what’s known as a “sensitivity solution” while wearing the respirator. This is used to test whether the subject can taste, smell, or recognize the solution. If the person can recognize, taste, or smell the solution, there’s a leak in the mask. This means the person needs to re-secure the mask or try a different size.

At PK Safety, we have two respirator fit test kits for you to choose from. The Allegro Saccharin Respirator Fit Test Kit 2040 is perfect for disposable and reusable dust and mist respirators rated N95 and higher. The included sensitivity solution will last for approximately 3 to 5 tests. It’s easy to use, allowing you and your team can get to work as quickly as possible.

3M has become the gold standard when it comes to respirator masks. The 3M FT-30 Bitrex Respirator Fit Test Kit with Solution is no exception. It can be used with any particulate respirator or gas and vapor respirator with a particulate filter. It can help you fit test your equipment for long periods. The kit can administer approximately 150 fit tests over its lifespan.

To comply with OSHA standards, you’ll need to fit test your respirator mask before going to work. Use a fit test kit to make sure the mask fits properly. If you have any questions about respirator sizing, you can always contact us at PK Safety.