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Get to Know N95 Disposable Respirators

Disposable respirators protect you and your workers from a variety of hazards, including harmful dust, fog, smoke, vapors, and mists. Without the proper protection, workers may develop chronic breathing problems, cancer, lung damage, or other illnesses and diseases. OSHA requires that employers provide respirators to those in their workforce that needs them, but making the selection can be confusing. 

What is a disposable respirator?

      A disposable respirator is a personal protective device that is worn on the face, covers at least the nose and mouth, and is used to reduce your risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles. Disposable respirators are discarded when they’re no longer usable because of hygiene, excessive resistance, or physical damage. They’re often referred to as “N95s” because of their ability to filter at least 95% of airborne particles.

Do N95 respirators come in different sizes?

      Yes. The sizing differs based on the model of the respirator.

How do I know what size I need?

      Fit testing is required to determine if a particular model and size of respirator will provide the proper fit. Fit testing is model specific, so you must be fit tested for each respirator model you’ll be using.

What is a fit test?

      A fit test determines whether a respirator fits you correctly and is acceptable. Fit testing uses a test agent that can either be detected by the your sense of taste or smell, or measured by an instrument to verify the fit.

Is fit testing required by OHSA?

      Yes. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 requires a respirator fit test be performed to confirm that the fit of any respirator forms a tight seal on your face before it’s used in the work place.

Why is fit testing necessary for disposable respirators?

      Fit testing is important to make sure you’re receiving the necessary level of protection against the contaminant you’re working with or around.

Are there different types of fit testing?

      Yes. Qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test that relies on your sensory detection of the test agent. Quantitative fit testing numerically measures the effectiveness of the respirator to seal with your face. It does not rely on your voluntary or involuntary response to the test agent.

Are medical evaluations necessary for disposable respirators?

      Yes. OSHA requires that a medical evaluation be performed for workers who will be wearing respirators. The evaluation will determine your ability to use a respirator. It’s required before you’re fit tested. It’s mandatory that the evaluation be performed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional (PLHCP) who provides a written recommendation regarding your ability to use respirators. The medical evaluation is usually performed annually.

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