NIOSH says new research supports OSHA fit-testing requirements
Pittsburgh – The percentage of improperly fitted respirators increases with the length of time between worker fit tests, giving support to the annual fit-testing requirements in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, according to new research from NIOSH.
The standard requires fit testing every year and whenever an employee’s physical condition changes, such as facial scarring or an obvious change in body weight.
For the study, NIOSH researchers focused on the commonly worn N95 filtering facepiece respirator. During a three-year period, researchers measured the fit of the respirators every six months on the volunteers, 134 of whom participated during the entire study.
Researchers found that after one year, an estimated 10 percent of workers’ respirators did not fit properly. Two and three years later, that figure rose to 20 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Additionally, nearly one-quarter of subjects who lost more than 20 pounds were unable to maintain an acceptable fit, according to the study.
The study was published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene in November.