Respirators protect users from hazardous airborne substances, including pathogens, chemicals, and dust. But no matter how good it is, a respirator only works as well as it fits.

A fit test is a vital step in ensuring how well the mask protects the user from airborne hazards.

What Is A Fit Test?

Tight-fitting respirators must have an effective seal to work properly. However, everyone has different facial characteristics, so there is no “one-size fits all” when it comes to respirators. A fit test is used to check the seal and overall fit of a respirator on the user.

Fit tests are usually completed by competent in-house individuals, trained consultants, manufacturers, suppliers, or hygiene inspectors.

Fit Checks Versus Fit Tests

A fit check is a self-check that is completed prior to using a respirator, with the aim of finding any air leaks or issues. Unlike fit tests, fit checks are not able to detect a proper respirator fit. A fit test is more thorough, and must be completed to comply with respirator standards.

How Does A Fit Test Work?

A fit test checks for three main factors:

  • An effective seal (absence of leaks)
  • Compatibility with the user
  • Stability when in use

For the test, the user must be clean shaven (if applicable) and any routine Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will be used with the respirator should be included in the test.


Photo: CleanSpace

Types Of Fit Testing

There are two kinds of fit tests: quantitative tests and qualitative tests.

Qualitative Fit Testing

Effectively a pass-or-fail test, qualitative fit tests assess the user’s response to a test agent, such as saccharin or BittrexTM. If the seal is poor, the user will be able to detect these by taste or smell. This type of testing relies on the user’s senses, and can only be used for certain masks.

Quantitative Fit Testing

Quantitative fit testing uses specialised equipment to objectively measure respirator seal and air leaks, and can be used for any type of respirator. When practical and reasonable, quantitative testing is the preferred method of testing as it offers more accurate results.

A written record of all fit testing carried out in the workplace should be kept, including the tests performed and the respirator used.

How Often Are Fit Tests Performed?

In accordance with Australian/New Zealand standards1, a fit test should be completed:

  • at the start of employment, for those working in areas with a significant risk of harmful airborne agents
  • when there is a significant change in the facial characteristics of the user that could affect the seal of the respirator (e.g., weight fluctuations, facial surgery, facial hair)
  • if a new respirator make or model is used
  • at regular intervals (annual fit testing recommended)

CleanSpace Fit Testing

CleanSpace is delivering superior fit test results. By objectively measuring the exact air leakage into the respirator, CleanSpace fit testing provides users with a highly accurate fit test rating, eliminating human variables to give more reliable results.


Want to know more about protecting employee welfare in the workplace? Learn about the CleanSpace respirator technology here.