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

Vanisha Sara
Vanisha Sara
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
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Vera Ikanone
Vera Ikanone
The instructor is patient and knowledgeable.
Pearl Lin
Pearl Lin
Rachelle Ho
Rachelle Ho
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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.
olumide bezi
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
Really nice. Provided a temporary certificate needed for my clinical as the real certificate would not arrive in 5-7 business days. :)
Chelsea Cano
Chelsea Cano
Anthony Beilin
Anthony Beilin
Olivia Conway
Olivia Conway
Class was interesting and knowledgeable. Thank you
Ichchha GC
Ichchha GC
Irma VB
Irma VB
Dennis was a great instructor with great humor to help pass the long time😂Definitely recommend this course for anyone who’s been wanting to get their First Aid Certification.
Kime Hurrichuran
Kime Hurrichuran
Anish Shirodker
Anish Shirodker
BS bagotrash
BS bagotrash
bella pico
bella pico
Tara Gill
Tara Gill
Domingo Jr. Gonzales
Domingo Jr. Gonzales
Teacher was nice and funny, made class easy to understand
Michiyou Kurokawa
Michiyou Kurokawa
Abid was an amazing instructor and very informative. Probably the best CPR course I have taken! Will definitely be coming back next time I need a recertification.
Sarah W
Sarah W
Eli Becerra
Eli Becerra
Allyson is an amazing instructor, she made the class very interactive and entertaining. I’ve heard from my friends that their first aid classes were boring, but I would love to say that this class was not boring what so ever. I would recommend friends or family that need to take first aid classes from SOS. Thank you Allyson for such a fun and knowledgeable experience😊
Angelika Reyes
Angelika Reyes
Melissa White
Melissa White
Some details weren’t covered, like how fast do you administer compressions.
Andrea Cristini
Andrea Cristini
Great speaker, well paced classes.
Justin S. JR Writes
Justin S. JR Writes
L C
L C
Sachi Chan
Sachi Chan
Louna Aboud
Louna Aboud
Steve McKnight
Steve McKnight
Chris Froud
Chris Froud
Great Basic Life Support Instructor Recert class with Jen Ngo. Very interactive and stress-free!
Kim West-Acernese
Kim West-Acernese
Great BLS instructor revert with Jennifer. Thank you!
WickhamKatie
WickhamKatie
Reilly ODwyer
Reilly ODwyer
Rosa Baby
Rosa Baby
Payal Sharma
Payal Sharma
Thank you Michelle for making class exciting, engaging and most importantly informative.
You Don
You Don
Nadia Hammoodi
Nadia Hammoodi
Hark Marquez
Hark Marquez
Natasha Gilchrist
Natasha Gilchrist
Michelle is really amazing. I learn quiet a bit with her lessons cannot wit to re-take the course every year and hopefully I get to be in her class!!
Diane Ho
Diane Ho
Joseph Melo
Joseph Melo
Michelle was knowledgeable and super engaging with many experiences to share. I feel confident to provide emergency first aid if needed. Thank you!
Natasha Cappadocia
Natasha Cappadocia
Michelle was lovely! Her personal anecdotes made the material memorable and made what could have been a very long boring day, fun. Thank you!
Tyana Mohamed
Tyana Mohamed
Anthony Man
Anthony Man
Siddhartha Datta
Siddhartha Datta
briar hutchison
briar hutchison
JEERAYAPA ZHANG
JEERAYAPA ZHANG
Olivia Ture
Olivia Ture
Shreya Joshi
Shreya Joshi
Ioana Popescu
Ioana Popescu
manvi gambhir
manvi gambhir
Mr. Pounall made the experience extremely educating, while entertaining with his jokes every now and then. For the future he should work on enhancing his stand up comedy career and making a few global tours to make this 5 stars a 6 star.
Patrick L
Patrick L
Leonard Dsouza
Leonard Dsouza
Noman jamal
Noman jamal
Thalia
Thalia
Kiran Sandhu
Kiran Sandhu
Jessamyn Bickle
Jessamyn Bickle
Wonderful experience! Allyson , the instructor was very resourceful & up to date. Enjoyed thoroughly. A great learning experience.
Dipalee Vajaria
Dipalee Vajaria
sanja c
sanja c
Prakash Nagar is a great program host/teacher. 10/10 recommended 🙌🏻
Mae Suliguin
Mae Suliguin
The mask fit certification was professional and very thorough. I really liked Patrick, the mask fit specialist. He's very knowledgeable, really personable and fun. The Kingbridge Garden Circle location is also very accessible, clean and ample free parking. I was really pleased with the session.
Rita Ganassini
Rita Ganassini
purna desar
purna desar
Amazing teacher so well done
Samantha Kazanczuk
Samantha Kazanczuk
Mariel Mendoza
Mariel Mendoza
Lisa Pim (Lcp)
Lisa Pim (Lcp)
Tyler Pimentel
Tyler Pimentel
Johnny pimentel
Johnny pimentel
melanie cianci
melanie cianci
Moe Rafid
Moe Rafid
Pamela A
Pamela A
Laurie Gallant
Laurie Gallant
SOS First Aid and Safety Training is a wonderful organization! 🙏Speaking to Velma in many occasions, and meeting the instructor, Peggy, was enlightening as they assured me that my daughter, Mariella would receive accommodations achieving her First Aid and CPR Level C certification with support. 🥰 Being a parent who advocates for their child when in need is so important. ✅ Being heard and supported is truly amazing! 🦋 Every child, teenager, or adult learns is his or her own way. 💕Hopefully, people continue to see, acknowledge, and remember that everyone is special and there must be patience, empathy, and compassion for each person in any life situation! 👏🏼 Being able to obtain this certificate is a milestone for a 14 Year Old who said, “Mom, I could have had a day off on Saturday, and it is a class with adults! —-and we had to study an entire manual full of too many modules!!!” ☺️ Again, much gratitude and thanks to Velma and Peggy at SOS First Aid for the extra time and support given to my daughter. 🦋 Not only did the girls learn how to save lives, they learned how to adapt and persevere! Dream Big! 🙏
Mary Jane Guibao Wheeler
Mary Jane Guibao Wheeler
Purvi Desai
Purvi Desai
Very informative session. Patrick did a good job at making it fun.
Maria Jaramillo
Maria Jaramillo
Rebecca Keane
Rebecca Keane
Kacy Knight
Kacy Knight
Patrick was a great instructor!
Alifiya Al-Harazi
Alifiya Al-Harazi
Courtney Priest-Brown
Courtney Priest-Brown
Blood Orange Beauty
Blood Orange Beauty
Jon
Jon
Michelle k was amazing learned alot of good things, I found she was verry thorough and to the point, realy enjoyed and would recommend the class to my peers
Tevin Taylor
Tevin Taylor
Youngwon Kim
Youngwon Kim
Great course! Loved the instructor Mr.Nagar (I think) he was funny and provided great real life instructions and examples.
Divya Sharma
Divya Sharma
Patrick was a great instructor for N95 mask fitting test. Thanks for the great experience.
ahmad kd
ahmad kd
Patrick was great. Class was easy to understand and they were well prepared with copies of sheets and allowed e transfer payments for those who needed a mask provided which was very helpful.
Marina Naalband
Marina Naalband
Arielle U
Arielle U
It was amazing experience and Patrick was helpful .
Alia Mohamed
Alia Mohamed
Sarah Fox
Sarah Fox
The instructor Patrick was very pleasant and engaging. He explained the content clearly and was very knowledgeable about the topic.
Georgianna Kelly
Georgianna Kelly
Mary Jane Gambito
Mary Jane Gambito
Excellent session. Patrick explained everything clearly.
Rohini Telang
Rohini Telang
Patrick Sacco completed my N95 mask fit test and was very kind and knowledgeable. He explained the procedure and was very informative.
Conida Halley
Conida Halley
Oneisha Donaldson
Oneisha Donaldson
George El Khal
George El Khal
Eubelyn Pagayon
Eubelyn Pagayon
Ai T
Ai T
Instructor Michelle is lovely, knowledgeable, had a wealth of personal experiences to share to make the first aid material relatable and accessible. Velma always has a great team and I'm always happy to update my trainings with SOS every time.
Kim FB
Kim FB
Paul McNeil
Paul McNeil
Good place to do Mask fit test and pcr.Kind and generous instructor specially patrick
harshil patel
harshil patel
Fantastic instructor. Clear, easy to understand instructions. Very friendly.
Lisa Hickey
Lisa Hickey
SHREYA PATEL
SHREYA PATEL
Patrick Sacco was very thorough with the N95 testing!
Krystal Goulbourne
Krystal Goulbourne
Kaleigh Redel
Kaleigh Redel
Instructor is very energetic and have a good energy through out the training. Recommended.
Anthea Katon
Anthea Katon
Great way of educating, clear, good
maggie abrahem
maggie abrahem
Rodica Suciu
Rodica Suciu
Jahnvi patel
Jahnvi patel
Brianna Zuniga
Brianna Zuniga
KHUSHALI PATEL
KHUSHALI PATEL
Patrick was awesome! Great demonstration! He was fun, funny and made the test enjoyable. Totally recommend!!
Gaurav A
Gaurav A
levent sevim
levent sevim
Paul and Elizabeth Gilbert
Paul and Elizabeth Gilbert
The instructor Patrick was super friendly
Dr. Harsh Parikh
Dr. Harsh Parikh
Jackie
Jackie
Dorothy Murray
Dorothy Murray
E Aquino
E Aquino
Abbey Garant
Abbey Garant
The instructor (Mitchell)was amazing.
vennah tondoya
vennah tondoya
A fast and friendly fit test experience. Patrick Sacco was nice and very informative. Thanks!
Arianna Mailloux
Arianna Mailloux
HARPREET KAUR
HARPREET KAUR
WASIM SASSILA
WASIM SASSILA
Jyoti Syroop
Jyoti Syroop
Dazzel Roco
Dazzel Roco
Jasdeep Bains
Jasdeep Bains
Patrick was great!
Abena Agyeman
Abena Agyeman
Juliana De Oliveira
Juliana De Oliveira
Awesome instructors, the class was so enjoyable and easy to understand!
Arthi Siva
Arthi Siva
De Muffin
De Muffin
Mobs_ Nishikino
Mobs_ Nishikino
9th Oakville Trafalgar Beavers
9th Oakville Trafalgar Beavers

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