New Protocols for Respirator Fit Testing

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Washington — OSHA has issued a final rule that adds two fit testing protocols to the agency’s respiratory protection standard (1910.134).

According to a Sept. 25 press release, the additions are:

  • The modified ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter quantitative fit testing protocol for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators; and
  • The modified ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol for filtering facepiece respirators

These new methods are in addition to the standard’s four existing protocols and are variations of OSHA’s original ambient aerosol CNC protocol, but have fewer test exercises, shorter exercise duration and a more streamlined sampling sequence, the release states.

OSHA claims the amended rule will not impose extra costs on employers and will not require those in general industries, shipyard employment, and construction to update or replace any current fit testing methods.

According to NIOSH, respirators protect the user in two basic ways. The first is by the removal of contaminants from the air. Respirators of this type include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles; and “gas masks” which filter out chemicals and gases.

Other respirators protect by supplying clean respirable air from another source. Respirators that fall into this category include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source; and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which include their own air supply.

Respirators should only be used when engineering control systems are not feasible.

Engineering control systems, such as adequate ventilation or scrubbing of contaminants, are the preferred control methods for reducing worker exposures.