Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE:Testing Masks for Fit
Many health experts and government officials recommend or require masks to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There are many choices. These may include surgical masks, bandanas, homemade cloth masks, and facepiece respirators such as the National Institute of Occupational Safety Health (NIOSH) approved N95, Chinese KN95, and Korean KF94. Although NIOSH tests and approves N95 respirators to be 95 percent effective in filtering particles and aerosols, it does not guarantee the devices will provide that protection unless they are properly fit.
There are no Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for non-NIOSH approved masks and respirators, but it is still important that these appliances also filter aerosols and are worn properly. This best practice also applies when multiple masks and or respirators are worn in conjunction. Instruction on how to don and doff the device is very important. National Jewish Health, leading pulmonary hospital, has an excellent video and instruction on “How to Properly Wear a Facemask for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Protection.”
Another way to ensure that masks are worn properly is to conduct a qualitative fit test. A qualitative fit test uses the sense of taste or smell or reaction to an irritant in order to detect leakage into the respirator facepiece. It does not measure the actual amount of leakage. Whether the respirator or mask passes or fails the test is based simply on the user detecting leakage of the test substance into the facepiece.
There are four qualitative fit test methods accepted by OSHA:
- Isoamyl acetate: smells like bananas
- Saccharin: leaves a sweet taste in the mouth
- Bitter: leaves a bitter taste in the mouth
- Irritant smoke: may cause coughing
There are a number of qualitative fit testers on the market. Examples include those made by 3M, Moldex, Allegro, MSA, Nexteq, and Honeywell. They are easy to use and require limited practice when instructions are followed. Appendix A of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, 1910.134, provides a regimen and lists the materials needed to conduct a test.
Be well, be smart, be 6 feet apart!
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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