Respirator Fit Testing
VETERANS ADMINISTRATION HOSPITAL, MEMPHIS
Over the years, Tioga Environmental Consultants has been called on periodically to perform respiratory fit testing for staff working at the Memphis Veterans Administration Hospital. As you can imagine with a large staff and institution of this size, sometimes finding the time to perform annual fit testing duties can be overwhelming. That’s where Tioga comes in. As needed, Tioga has been able to provide support for the hospital industrial hygiene staff by performing annual respiratory fit testing for VA staff members because just about everyone who works with patients at the VA has the potential to need to wear a respirator.
Most staff at the Memphis VA are fitted to wear N95 Respirators. N95 respirators have the ability to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles, large and small, when properly fitted. That is why these respirators are so important for our medical professionals and first responders.
After verifying that the staff member had received medical clearance to wear a respirator, Tioga personnel performed a qualitative fit test on the employee. Qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test method that uses your sense of taste or smell or monitors your reaction to an irritant in order to detect leakage into the respirator facepiece. Qualitative fit testing does not measure the actual amount of leakage. Whether the respirator passes or fails the test is based simply on you detecting leakage of the test substance into your facepiece. In general, Tioga typically used two of the four types of substances that can be used to perform a fit test:
- Saccharin, which leaves a sweet taste in your mouth, or
- Bitrex, which leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
After each fit test performed, Tioga prepared an annual fit test record for the employee and matched it with the medical clearance form. These records were kept on file with the industrial hygiene staff at the hospital and the employee was provided with a card documenting the annual testing.
Tioga regularly provides fit testing for smaller numbers of staff including our own employees.