Mask Fit Testing for N95 Respirators

mask fit test

At this point during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us wear a face mask of some sort. In many jurisdictions it is a requirement to wear a face mask when entering public indoor locations. For the average person, a reusable cloth mask or a disposable medical mask is usually adequate to provide some form of protection against water droplets. However, there are certain professions, such doctors and nurses, Public Service Workers, dental hygienists, dentists, as well as, construction and plant workers, where there are bioaerosols or toxic air or dust in in the work environment.

These professions require a higher grade of mask, also known as a respirator.  These masks are regulated, and an employee needs to be mask fit test with their mask for use at work. These respirators must be airtight, to safely minimize the unfiltered air that can get past and will usually negate particulates (gas, vapor or particulates).

Respirators must be able to filter out a certain amount of bioaerosols, chemicals, smoke or dust based on the rating that they are given. N95 respirators, for example, were originally used for industrial purposes, such as in carpentry, construction, mining, and painting. These types of N95 respirators would have had minimal protection against water droplet penetration.

Today, during the pandemic, dentists, hygienists, doctors, PSWs and many other frontline workers are using N95 respirators, especially if they work with aerosols. These professions that would have previously used medical masks, now require respirators that not only provide protection against water droplet penetration but must also be airtight. Employers must make sure that their employees have their respirators mask fit tested and that all variables align with the current Canadian CSA-Z94 standard (currently CAN/CSA Z94.4-18 in Ontario).

 

What does getting a Respirator Mask Fit Certification mean?

A respirator mask fit test is when a person gets certified for use of a specific mask make/manufacturer and model (i.e. Makrite Secura, 3M 8210,or a  P-100 ½ face mask for example) has a good air seal to a person’s face. Every mask make and model is unique and face / head is unique.  Some mask fits are a challenge to fit, given the variability of mask type and person.

This means that the mask fit certification is very specific to the mask make and model.  It is similar to issuing a person a driver’s license, BUT  the license is only valid for the person to drive one make and model vehicle (i.e. Toyota Camry).  Once a mask fit is passed, this person can only use this mask make and model.  If this person uses another mask, they must get a new mask fit on that mask.

Certifications are valid for 2 years from the issue date and they follow Occupational Health and Safety Standards and CSA Z-98.4-xx.  CSA Z-94 standards slightly vary across the provinces. Mask fit testing is done in one of two ways: through a quantitative test (QNFT) (or a qualitative test (QLFT).

 

What respirator type should I use?

respiratory type

Many of you have likely already come across masks claiming that they are “N95 masks”, but what does this mean exactly? If a mask truly has an N95 rating, then it is a respirator according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH is an American organization that is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It carries out research and tests to protect workers, and it creates the standards that are applied to respirators. These standards are commonly used in the Canada, the USA and many other countries.

Respirator classifications according to NIOSH are determined by an alphanumeric system. NIOSH approved masks are listed on the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The letters “N”, “R” and “P” are used to describe how resistant a respirator is to oil-based particulates. Oil-based particulates are tricky because they can easily penetrate respirators that are ill-equipped to block them. A respirator with an “N” classification is non-resistant, one with an “R” is resistant, and one with a “P” is oil-proof. Of the three classifications, N-rated respirators tend to last the longest, with R-rated ones having the shortest lifespan. The numbers in a respirator classification indicate the percentage of particulates that any given respirator can filter out.

Your typical N95 respirator will theoretically filter out 95% of particulates in the surrounding air. The numbers used are 95, 99 and 100 (technically 99.97). While there are nine combinations of letters and numbers possible in the NIOSH classification system, there is not a respirator that is strictly better in the general sense. Some respirators will provide better protection, but that comes at the cost of their service life. Furthermore, respirators that provide more protection tend to cost more and they can feel harder to breathe through.

Choosing a respirator to fit will come down largely to a combination of how long you want it to last and what you need to protect against. Remember that while some respirators will last longer than others, it is always a good idea to safely change out the filter under certain circumstances or after the recommended amount of time to avoid contamination.

  

Where can I get a mask fit test done?

Employers can conduct mask fit testing themselves if there is someone trained to do so. Otherwise they must find an alternative method. If you are looking for N95 mask fit testing for yourself or your employees, then this is a program that has you covered. It uses a qualitative mask fit test to easily and thoroughly determine whether something like a N95 respirator fits correctly. If an N95 mask is used at a place of work, it MUST follow OHSA regulations CAN/CSA Z94.4-18 standard and all wearers MUST be fit tested. The CAN/CSA Z94.4-18 standard includes such rules as not having facial hair that interferes with a respirator’s ability to fit properly, to participate in mask fit testing.  As a wearer it is your responsibility to wear the respirator correctly so that you can be aware if it is not fitting properly at any point. Try not to brush off any doubt when it comes to your respirator’s fit, because depending on the dangers present, some workplaces can be life threatening.

 

What is the Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Fit testing?

Mask fit testing is done in one of two ways: through a quantitative test (QNFT) or a qualitative test (QLFT). Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, but they each achieve the same result. The aim is to make sure that a respirator is fitted perfectly to an individual’s face, so that air is safely filtered.

  • Quantitative mask fit testing involves the use of a Portacount or Quantafit machine to get a measurement using a respirator’s fixed air supply. While this method provides an accurate, objective reading, the machines are expensive.
  • Qualitative mask fit testing, which is used quite frequently, especially when fit testing N95 respirators, uses an individual’s taste sensitivity. Something like saccharin (Benzoic sulfimide), which is sweet, or Bitrex (Denatonium Benzoate), which is bitter, is used to determine whether there is any leakage in a fitted respirator. Bitrex may tend to give better visual responses due to its bitterness, and saccharin cannot be used if an individual is pregnant. Qualitative testing is a less expensive option, but it does present a certain amount of subjectivity and the possibility of a placebo effect. If the individual being tested is aware of what they are being tested with and is honest about what they smell or taste, then there should not be any issues.

Remember that employers are responsible for telling you what sort of respirator is required for your workplace, and to make sure that you are mask fit tested correctly. Mask fit tests must be done at least every two years for the simple reason that people’s faces change.

 

What is a KN95?  Can I use it in Canada or the US?

KN95 mask

Although its respirator classifications are used in many countries, NIOSH is not the only organization that has them. A KN95 mask is one that has been regulated by the Chinese government. During the pandemic N95 respirator shortage in North America, KN95 masks have been temporarily approved by regulators for use in North America.   Both classifications provide very similar protection, but basically, there are 3 differences:

  1. The Chinese government requires manufacturers to run mask fit tests on KN95 masks. There is no such requirement for N95 respirators.
  2. N95 respirators must conform to certain standards regarding pressure drop while inhaling, while KN95 masks do not.
  3. N95 respirators must conform to certain standards regarding pressure drop while exhaling, while KN95 masks do not.

Lately, the dependability of KN95 masks has come into question because of bad batches being shipped to North America, and the questionable quality that can sometimes be found. In China, there is no independent body that is equivalent to NIOSH, so there is no organization acting to check that the Chinese government is approving the appropriate masks. When deciding whether they are worth getting, do so with this in mind. Some other comparable mask classifications to N95 respirators are:

  • FFP2 (Europe)
  • P2 (Australia/New Zealand)
  • Korea 1st class (Korea)
  • DS2 (Japan)

 

What is the difference between a 3M medical (surgical) mask versus a 3M industrial (standard) respirator?

Firstly, be aware that 3M is one of several companies that are known for producing masks and respirators. Secondly, try not to think about the difference between medical masks and industrial respirators as a “one or the other” comparison. In the US for example, medical masks are regulated by the FDA while industrial respirators are regulated by NIOSH. Medical masks prioritize fluid resistance, while industrial respirators prioritize particulate filtration. Therefore, it is entirely possible for any appropriate company to have an N95 medical respirator that has been approved by both NIOSH and the FDA if it provides particulate filtration and fluid resistance.  This can be said for any country that has equivalents to NIOSH and the FDA, like Canada (The CSA Group and Health Canada respectively).

Contact

SOS First Aid and Safety Training services the following Southern Ontario communities: Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, Milton, Guelph, Vaughan, Woodbridge, Maple, Richmond Hill, Brampton, Acton, Georgetown, Hamilton, Ancaster, Brantford, Stoney Creek, St. Catherines, and Welland.

Customer Reviews

DrMarinor Blanco
DrMarinor Blanco
Prakash was an amazing instructor who took his time to show us the theory and the connection to the practical. I learned that removing the inpaled object is beneficial to save someone's life.
MsBeeYouTilFull Love
MsBeeYouTilFull Love
I learned that if it is impaled but interfere with CPR you can take the impaled object out . Our instructor was very informative and helpful throughout the coarse
Vieve Blanco
Vieve Blanco
Teacher was nice I learned alot from him
Renee Rudder
Renee Rudder
Teacher was great and engaging. He had lots of facts and great at teaching key points!
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TheonlyTT٭
Prakash Nagar is doing great. He is very informative and nice.
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pikaboo 10
This is the First Aid course to be on board with.Ally led today’s instruction! What an amazing instructor who uses her teaching to cater to various learning styles and effectively gets the training done. So appreciative. Very grateful. Thank you!
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Primrose Lewis
I really enjoyed the class. The lectures were understandable. It was a pleasure to be here today. I have a say personally, our instructor was very nice person.
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Kaif Khan
Kaif Khan
Prakash was an amazing instructor! I have taken this course twice before, but felt like I learnt the most this time around. I was a lot more comfortable doing the sling wrappings.
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Harini Rajaratnam
Great teacher and comfortable place
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Marwah alshabeeb
Andriecha
Andriecha
i can say i have the knowledge and confidence to give primary care whenever wherever needed if possible. Recognize and prioritize.i appreciate the way Mr. Prakash Nagar provided knowledge in a cool and stress free environment to the students.
Annu Agrawal
Annu Agrawal
It was very educational and I learnt how to save lifes which is very important
Sana Khan
Sana Khan
Prakash Nagar is a great teacher.Breifly teach each nd every concept
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Pooja Bhattarai
It was very informative session…well structured and conveyed. Thank you
S T
S T
Like this place as they explain everything very well.
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marlen flores
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Red Kakarot
Very informative and full of knowledge. Knows exactly how to deliver an information and to make you remember it. Thank Mr. pakash.
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Noor Taha
The class was very smooth and you learn alot on basic life support.
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Charmaine Ruiz
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IG T
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Niya xoxo
Very good instructor, explains everything in detail with explanations.
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Priyanka Manjunath
Had a training session with Patty for Standard First Aid and BLS. She was amazing, made the class fun and entertaining definitely hope i get her again.
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Crystal
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cincinnati808
Patty was an excellent instructor! Very thorough and good knowledge of the material :)
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David Vaz
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tish doyle
The best class I ever had , Patty is super cool teacher
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Manish Khurana
Excellent instructor with amazing methodology, knowledge and experience.
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NPS LAW
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Aleyna D.
This instructor is very knowledgeable and made the course fun to learn. He answered all of our questions in ways that was very easy to understand. I feel like I've learned and retained alot of the information based on his teaching style. Thank you so much😊
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eshanti singh
KC B
KC B
The experience was amazing and I really learned a lot from it.
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Marianne Rose Guelos
Prakash Nagar sir is amazing! Cleared all the concepts and reduces anxiety and helps build a confidence of saving lives in you!
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Sushil Katti
Very good demonstration of cpr technique. Instructor very good
Kenna Fay
Kenna Fay
Supportive,knowledgeable and very kind instructor.
Kerstine Banares
Kerstine Banares
The CPR/First aid training was very informative and the day went by smoothly. Instructor Prakash explained everything well and tested our knowledge along the way to make sure we felt comfortable. Thanks to SOS first aid and safety training for the great experience.
Par B
Par B
My Facilitator for the course was Mr. Prakash Nagar, and he made the whole session so interesting that the whole 8hrs passed in a blink of an eye!!It was a wonderful interaction and I’m really glad that I got to learn so much today from him. Thank you!
Parshwati Bhaumik
Parshwati Bhaumik
Filip Pejic
Filip Pejic
Prakash is a very enthusiastic but patient teacher. Excellent hands on assistance with practical portions of class when needed. I now feel more confident in providing CPR as well as applying tourniquets and slings!
Elizabeth M
Elizabeth M
Made the practical learning easy to understand and follow
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Alayah E
It’s a great experience to study with today’s instructor. He’s knowledgeable and encouraging. He helped us understanding and remembering the knowledge better.
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10/10 experience teacher was amazing
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N Malinay
N Malinay
I want to say a big thank you to Ms VIOLA, she was so professional and she made the course understandable and fun.
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bee babs
nandita sarin
nandita sarin
Very interesting and engaging training. Thank you!
Amy Chen
Amy Chen
Great teacher who explained the whys behind all the procedures and encouraged class participation. Wanted the class to be longer as they seemed to have a lot of knowledge to share.
Shani K.
Shani K.
Interactive , interesting and fun. Great experience
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Belinda Shemilt
Marina Douglas
Marina Douglas
Prakesh was a really great instructor, he’s very entertaining and easy to learn from.
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Nikababy TV
Vickie Ng
Vickie Ng
Very helpful and knowledgeable teacherGot excellent trainingThank you
Rania Beshay
Rania Beshay
I did my training at the Kingsbridge Garden location and Prakash was the First Aid and CPR instructor for our group.He was so fantastic , friendly and provides knowledge in a fun way. The day breezed by and I learned so much. I highly recommend this location for any first aid/cpr classes or recertification.
CKas 7
CKas 7
I loved my experience with the Red Cross for my First Aid CPR certification! Prakash Nagar was amazing and so knowledgeable. He made things make sense. Thank you!
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Rupinder Kaur
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Raquel Heayn
Kelly Reid
Kelly Reid
Denis was great… great energy
Emma Frattaroli
Emma Frattaroli
Mina Hanna
Mina Hanna
Instructor made it comprehensive and easy to understand.
Andrew McLean
Andrew McLean
Very informative, and enjoyed the direction from the instructor helped where technique needed to be improved
jonathan posella
jonathan posella
Instructor provided useful real life context to information and skills. Very engaging and easy to listen to.
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Dalton Pears
Ryan Erskine
Ryan Erskine
Tazeen Siddiqui
Tazeen Siddiqui
Alina Zahid
Alina Zahid
It was a great course with a ver pleasant and knowledgeable teacher. If I could have one complaint, it would be the need for a scheduled break in the morning session.
Nicole Stockill
Nicole Stockill
Great and convenient place to take the course. Instructor was amazing and great mix of learning with fun and laughter . Ready to give first aid and CPR .Highly recommend 😊
Pooja Ghori
Pooja Ghori
Prakash Nagar is the best first aid instructor I have had the pleasure of learning from. His knowledge and intelligence is obvious, his passion to teach is inspiring. I'll be coming back every year for my recertification, and I'm sure I'll learn something new every time
Timothy Votruba
Timothy Votruba
Completed my CPR/BLS blended course with Prakash. He is an amazing instructor. Enjoyed every aspect of the class!
Hafsa Haneef
Hafsa Haneef
The course (BLS / SFA Blended) was well taught and the instructor was charismatic and knowledgeable. Still learned a few things although this is my second recertification of standard first aid!
Alfred Mikhael
Alfred Mikhael
M
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Vera Akatugba Ikanone
Vera Akatugba Ikanone
The instructor is patient and knowledgeable.
Pearl Lin
Pearl Lin
Rachelle Ho
Rachelle Ho
Lena Skibicki
Lena Skibicki
Ray Chang
Ray Chang
it’s good the course
Eunice Kwon
Eunice Kwon
Great experience and presentation skills that allow for in-depth understanding.
Saifallah Ayyad
Saifallah Ayyad
Before coming to my training, I was very anxious but Michelle & Jessica made the training very personal & interesting! They talk about real life situations with their real life experiences! They also care for your experience during your training and make sure that you are comfortable! Definitely will come back here again and recommend them to my friends who needs First Aid Trainings.
Macy S
Macy S
digna George Antoine
digna George Antoine
Chehal Bangotra
Chehal Bangotra
Von Immanuel Yagong
Von Immanuel Yagong
Daniel Tyrrell
Daniel Tyrrell
Janai Menzies
Janai Menzies
Had a great time learning my standard first Aid with CFR-C and AED. The instructor,A.T Summer was very great with her teachings and practicals.
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olumide bezi
Loubna
Loubna
Very knowledgeable and informative instructor!
Nor Farion
Nor Farion
Rhiannon Dawe
Rhiannon Dawe
Vishwa Bhatt
Vishwa Bhatt
Arizo Hasanzadah
Arizo Hasanzadah
Amandeep Kaur
Amandeep Kaur

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