Qualitative vs Quantitative Fit Testing
There are two types of respirator fit testing methods that Fit Test Victoria provides – quantitative and qualitative. We follow both AS/NZS 1715:2009 and OSHA fit testing standards and protocols. Our fit tester is a registered nurse and RESP-FIT accredited fit tester in qualitative and quantitative methods.
For disposable filtering facepiece (N95/P2) and reusable half-face respirators, both methods are valid and in line with the AS/NZS 1715:2009 and OSHA.
At Fit Test Victoria, we will only use the quantitative fit testing method to test reusable respirators - half-face and full-face. We can test disposable masks (N95/P2) using either method.
Please note: The Victorian Department of Health respiratory protection guidelines note that for Victorian health services (public hospitals) quantitative testing is required. This includes staff, students, and contractors. If you will be doing clinical placements or working in a public hospital, please choose quantitative testing.
Quantitative Fit Testing
Quantitative fit testing is inherently more reliable than qualitative testing given that the quantitative method does not rely on the user to subjectively report if they can taste a challenge agent.
The user will perform a series of exercises while being tested. The fit test machine will determine if the test is a pass or fail.
Quantitative fit testing is appropriate for all tight-fitting respirators including disposable filtering facepieces (N95/P2), reusable half-face and reusable full-face respirators. Full-face respirators can only be tested using this method.
Quantitative fit testing using a Portacount machine
Qualitative Fit Testing
This is a subjective test that relies on users’ ability to taste a challenge agent – either a bitter or sweet tasting spray – while wearing their respirator.
Before the fit test, users undergo a ‘sensitivity test’ to ensure they can taste a diluted version of the challenge agent. Some people are unable to taste the agents and cannot undergo qualitative testing. If this happens, they must be fit tested using a fit test machine (the quantitative method).
Users wear a very loose-fitting hood so that the spray is concentrated in one area around the breathing zone and respirator. A series of exercises such as normal breathing, deep breathing, talking, bending, etc. are performed during the fit test.
If someone cannot taste the spray during any of the fit test exercises, this means the respirator likely has an adequate seal and they pass the fit test.
If someone can taste the solution while wearing their mask and doing the exercises, then there is a leak between the seal of the mask and the face. This is a fit test fail.
If someone fails qualitative testing on several different respirators, it is suggested that they undergo a quantitative test to ensure that subjectivity is not producing erroneous results.
While rare, it is possible for people to have an allergic reaction to the tasting agents. People with asthma may also be intolerant of the challenge agents. People with anxiety or claustrophobia may not tolerate the fit testing hood. Participants must read the written informed consent prior to their appointment. Please read the informed consent at the end of this guide.
Qualitative fit testing using a fit test hood and tasting spray
Informed Consent (for qualitative testing only)
You will be required to taste one or both of these aerosolised solutions during the test:
Bitrex which is a bitter-tasting agent (commonly used to prevent nail-biting in children)
Saccharin which is a sweet-tasting agent (commonly used to sweeten beverages)
Both solutions are classified as non-hazardous according to the “Model Work Health and Safety Regulations, 2011” (SafeWork Australia).
If you have a history of allergies (including skin allergies), asthma or other respiratory disorders, it is possible that any aerosolised solution may exacerbate pre-existing conditions. The likelihood of this occurring is rare but if you are concerned, please speak to your GP before undergoing qualitative respiratory fit testing.
Fit Test Hood
You will be required to wear a fit test hood to undergo testing. If you have severe anxiety or claustrophobia, you may not be able to tolerate the hood.
If you are unable or unwilling to wear the hood, you will need to undergo quantitative (machine) testing instead.
Note: If you are pregnant, please speak to your GP or medical provider before undergoing any method of respiratory fit testing and before wearing any type of respirator mask.
By attending and participating in fit testing, you are giving your consent to get fit tested. The fit tester can answer any questions you may have during your appointment.