NIOSH Explains Respirator Seal Checks
NIOSH recently published a list of frequently asked questions about how to perform a respirator seal check. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires an annual fit test to ensure that workers are properly protected — workers themselves should perform their own seal check every time they wear a respirator.
Approximately 3 million workers across the United States are required to wear respirators to protect from harmful dust, chemicals, and particles that can become airborne. These respirators are only effective as long as there is a tight seal on the wearer’s face. Any gaps can expose workers to harmful substances and lead to respiratory issues and illnesses.
How to Perform a Seal Check
A user seal check takes less than a minute to perform, and it can go a long way in making sure the wearer stays protected. NIOSH explains that there are two ways to test the seal: a positive pressure or a negative pressure check. To perform a positive pressure check, the wearer should press down on the sides of the facepiece to ensure no air can enter. Then, they should exhale gently. A successful fit should cause the respirator to become slightly pressurized before the air leaks out.
In a negative pressure seal check, the user should inhale quickly while pressing down on the sides of the mask to prevent air from entering. In a successful check, the mask should collapse slightly when this negative pressure is created. While it may seem small, it’s important for employees to complete this check before wearing their respirator on the job site.
Sometimes respirators can be more complex and are not able to be tested with a simple seal check. The manufacturer’s instructions for the respirator should note how to perform a user seal check.
Respirator Fit Test Still a Requirement
A seal check is not a substitute for an annual fit test. It is not specific or sensitive enough to replace to qualitative or quantitative methods that are accepted by OSHA. Employers should only provide respirators that have successfully passed a fit test in the last year. According to NIOSH, using a seal check in addition to an annual fit test can lead to higher performance from your respirator.
NIOSH’s publication explains in further detail how to perform a seal check. If your respirators a due for a fit test, it’s time to contact Worksite Medical. We can come directly to your worksite to perform respirator fit tests to OSHA’s standards. You won’t lose any productivity with our on-site testing — and you’ll make sure that your employees are properly protected.
Call Worksite Medical today at 1-844-OCCUMED to schedule your respirator fit test today.