Administrative Regulation 7.27

ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATION:   AR: 7.27 DATE APPROVED: August 8, 2023
SUBJECT: Respirator Fit Test ORIGINATING DEPARTMENT: Human Resources

PURPOSE:

To provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment. The guidelines established in this Administrative Regulation are designed to help reduce employee exposure to occupational air contaminants and dangerous chemicals. The primary objective is to provide employees the protection from exposure to any respiratory hazard that may be encountered while performing various job duties.
 
The County will provide, at no charge, a respirator to those employees who are required to wear a respirator to perform their job duties.

SCOPE AND APPLICATION

This Administrative Regulation applies to employees who are required to work in hazardous atmospheres in which contaminants that cannot be reduced by engineering controls and requires the utilization of a respirator, or may include normal work processes/operations, maintenance activities and during non-routine or emergency operations such as a spill of a hazardous chemical.

The Fit Testing applies to certain job classifications required to wear a respirator within the following departments/divisions:
  • Parks and Recreation (Aquatics and Grounds Maintenance)
  • Public Works (Aquatic Services, Facilities Management, and Solid Waste)
  • Water Resources (Utility Operations Division)
This Administrative Regulation does not apply to those employees within Fire Services who are required to wear a respirator to perform their job duties. Fire Services has established their own policies and procedures that addresses their specific requirements. 

WHAT IS A RESPIRATOR?

A respirator is a device that protects you from inhaling dangerous substances, such as chemicals and infectious particles. Respirators are among the most important pieces of protective equipment for working in hazardous environments. Selecting the right respirator requires an assessment of all the workplace operations, processes or environments that may create a respiratory hazard. The identity of the hazard and its airborne concentrations needs to be determined before choosing a respirator.

FIT TEST

A Fit Test is a test protocol conducted to verify that a respirator is both comfortable and provides the wearer with the expected protection. Two different types of fit testing can be used to verify a respirator’s fit: Qualitative testing utilizes the wearer’s sense of taste, smell, or involuntary cough to detect an irritant; and Quantitative testing utilizes an electronic instrument to verify the correct fit.

An experienced and highly qualified person within Fire Services will perform a Quantitative Fit Test.

Fit Testing is required for those employees who are required to wear any tight-fitting respirator and will be conducted:
  1. Prior to the initial use of a respirator.
  2. On an annual basis.
  3. If a respirator of a different size, style, model or make is to be used on the job.
  4. If the employee’s supervisor makes a visual observation of changes in the employee’s physical condition that would affect respirator fit, such as facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or a drastic change in weight.
Tight-fitting facepiece respirators are not permitted if:
  1. Employee has facial hair that interferes with the sealing surface of the respirator or interferes with the valve function.
  2. Employee has corrective glasses that interferes with the seal of the facepiece or interferes with the valve function.
  3. Any other condition which interferes with the facepiece seal or interferes with the valve function.
FIT TESTING PROCESS

Employees will be Fit Tested with the make, model, and size of respirator that they will wear. 

Employees will be provided with several sizes of respirators so that they may find an optimal fit.

During your Fit Test:
  1. The fit tester will prepare the wearer for testing, including plugging the nose prior to donning the mask. In addition, the fit tester will enter the wearer’s information into the fit testing instrument.
  2. The wearer will don the mask and complete a manual seal check by blocking all inhalation valves and attempting to inhale. If air is easily moved into the mask during the seal check, the fit tester will evaluate the need for another mask/size.
  3. The fit tester will attach the testing instrument to the wearer’s mask and perform all phases of the test as required by the testing instrument.
  4. If the wearer does not successfully complete any portion of the test, two additional attempts will be made with different size masks. If an employee does not pass three (3) attempts, the fit tester will notify Human Resources of the failure.
  5. Once the wearer successfully passes all phases of the fit test, the tester will print the results from the testing instrument. All testing results will be sent to Human Resources for record retention. 
SEAL CHECK

A seal check is performed to see if the respirator is positioned correctly on the employee’s face. Employees are required to do a seal check every time they wear the respirator following the instructions provided by the respirator manufacturer. A seal check is not a substitute for a fit test. 

To do a seal check:
  1. Put your respirator on and make sure it fits snugly on your face, especially around the nose.
  2. Place one, or both, hand(s) over the inhalation valve(s) of the respirator and inhale. You should not feel any air leaking between your face and the respirator. If air is felt, adjust the respirator until no air movement can be detected.
  3. With your hand(s) still covering the inhalation valve(s), forcefully exhale. The exhalation valve on the mask should allow all air to escape. You should not feel any air leaking between your face and the respirator. Your eyeglasses should not fog.
Ask your supervisor for help if you cannot perform or pass the seal check. 
Do not enter a hazardous area until your respirator passes the annual fit test and the seal check. 

EMPLOYEE RESPONSIBILITIES

Each employee has the responsibility to wear his/her respirator when and where required and in the manner in which they were trained. Additional responsibilities of the employee include:
  1. Maintain and store respirator as instructed in a clean sanitary location.
  2. Notify supervisor if the respirator no longer fits well due to:
    1. change in employee’s physical condition; or
    2. new medical condition which requires a new evaluation.
  3. Inform supervisor of any respiratory hazard's employee feels is not addressed in the workplace.
  4. Use the respiratory protection in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the training received.
  5. Conduct user seal checks each time employee wears the respirator.
  6. While performing job duties that requires a tight-fitting respirator, employee must be appropriately clean-shaven at all times. 
ACCEPTABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE FACIAL HAIR

Beards do not allow for a proper respirator fit. Only small, neatly trimmed mustaches, beards or goatees that border only the mouth of the employee and fit within the respirator, are permitted for respirator wearing use.

Beard hair can render a respirator nearly useless. Without a solid fit, the respirator cannot protect against gases, particles and other unwanted airborne materials that can enter an employee's mouth and nose. 

The following diagram from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) details various acceptable and unacceptable facial hair examples
Screenshot 2023-12-14 163007 - Copy

DOCUMENTATION AND RECORDKEEPING

Human Resources shall maintain a record of the fit testing administered to staff to include, but not limited to:
  1. Name of the employee.
  2. Type of Fit test performed.
  3. Specific make, model, and size of respirator tested.
  4. Date of the test.
All Fit test records shall be retained in the employee’s personnel file. These records are updated as new staff are trained, when existing staff receive refresher training, and/or new training is conducted.
All medical documentation concerning clearance for respirators shall be kept confidential and maintained in the employee’s personnel file.