Face masks have been a top news story for weeks – when to wear them, when not to, and why. Now that they’re being recommended in more areas for everyday use, most people have learned about the importance of masks as Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). However, it’s one thing to put on a mask – quite another to ensure it fits properly. Skipping a proper fit test can compromise the effectiveness of the mask, and that’s a serious safety concern.
Let’s start with the basics…
N95 masks are commonly referenced when talking about masks in general. In fact, there are a wide variety of face masks. An N95 mask, or respirator, is certified to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. They can be used in a variety of workplaces and are currently in high demand to protect healthcare workers who may come in contact with COVID-19 patients.
What is a fit test?
Fit testing is done to ensure that the respirator seals tightly to the user’s face, ensuring that air is only flowing through the filter – and not leaking in through the sides – to protect the wearer. This includes selecting a mask that is the right size and shape so that it fits snugly.
How to Properly Don an N95 Mask
To get the best seal possible, it’s essential to ensure that users are donning their masks correctly as follows:
- Washing hands!
- Placing the respirator over the nose and under the chin, putting straps behind ears or head, depending on the style
- If the respirator has a nose clip, use both hands to mold the nose clip firmly against nose and face
- Conduct a fit test
How to Conduct a Fit Test
Unfortunately, due to the limited supply of respirators currently available, it may not be possible for employees to undergo fit testing from a product specialist, but employees can conduct their own fit testing by doing a positive or negative-pressure seal check:
- Positive-pressure check: use hands to block the respirator filter and trying to breathe out. The test is successful if slight pressure builds up, meaning that air isn’t leaking around the edges
- Negative-pressure check: use the same method, but try to breathe in. If no air enters, this means the seal around the edges is secure
As more N95 masks become available, it will be critical to ensure those using them understand how to properly wear and test this important safety device. If you have questions or need assistance with fit testing demonstrations for your team, contact your Bunzl Safety representative – we’re here to help!