Quantitative vs. Qualitative Respirator Fit Testing

If you have the kind of work environment that puts employees in contact with insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors, or sprays, they need to wear a respirator at work. In these settings, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) also requires employers to fit test workers, because simply having a respirator isn’t enough — it has to form a tight seal on the face or neck.

A fit test must be conducted to ensure the respirator can effectively protect the worker wearing it. This test takes around 15 to 20 minutes to perform and should be conducted at least once per year. There’s two ways to do this — qualitative and quantitative testing.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Fit Testing

Choosing the right type of respirator fit testing can be a matter of life or death, so learn about the two types:

Qualitative Testing

A pass/fail test relying on a sense of taste, smell, or the worker’s reaction to the contaminant, a qualitative test doesn’t gauge the amount of leakage present. OSHA has four approved methods for qualitative fit tests, including isoamyl acetate, saccharin, Bitrex, and irritant smoke.

Quantitative Testing

Acceptable for any variety of tight-fitting respirator, quantitative testing requires the use of a machine to identify the amount of leakage seeping into the respirator. Three OSHA-approved qualitative fit testing methods included generated aerosol, ambient aerosol, and controlled negative pressure.  Eco-Rental Solutions rents the TSI 8030 Portacount Pro Fit Tester and the TSI 8038 Portacount Pro Plus respirator fit testers.

How Respirators Work

Approximately five million U.S. workers are required to wear a respirator at 1.3 million workplaces throughout the country. Having one that fits properly can keep people from breathing in toxic substances that can lead to cancer, lung impairment, diseases, or even death.

Different types of respirators provide different protections, so the correct variety must be used. Particulate respirators and air-purifying respirators remove contaminants from the air. On the other hand, airline respirators use compressed air from a remote source, while a self-contained breathing apparatus contains its own air supply.

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