by Wendy Loomis
Occupational Health Account Manager

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to administer annual medical clearances and an approved fit test to ensure their employees are protected from inhaling harmful contaminants.

Annual testing is a 2-step process that entails:

  1. Respirator Medical Clearance – Each employee must obtain a medical clearance from a certified physician. The responses to the questions regarding respirator type and work conditions allows the physician to determine if the employee can fulfill his or her work duties while wearing a respirator.

  2. Fit Testing – Once a medical clearance is obtained the employee must also pass a test designed to confirm the respirator being used provides a seal guarding against contaminants entering the employee’s lungs.

The EI Group, Inc.’s (EI) Occupational Health team is here to help you as a one-stop option to fulfill your annual respirator protection commitments regarding medical clearances and fit tests.

Annual Medical Clearances
EI offers annual medical clearances through our online tool; Respirator Assessor®.  Each employee submits a Respirator Medical Questionnaire online.  Their questionnaire is then reviewed by our Certified Occupational Health Physician. A HIPPA approved clearance notification is sent to both the employee and the employer, including guidance if there is a need for any additional follow-up medical evaluations.

In a few clicks, Respirator Assessor® can provide you with clearance and testing documents and reports that show when an employee’s current accreditation expires.

Respirator Fit Testing
There are 2 types of fit testing; qualitative and quantitative.  Each type uses scientifically proven methods to measure respirator face-seal leakage. In addition to obtaining an annual test certification, an Occupational Health Specialist also provides the following services with each test:

  • Respirator condition evaluation
  • Proper adjustment and fit of their respirator
  • Negative & Positive pressure seal check of their respirator
  • Refresher training on the use and responsibilities of respirator use

Qualitative Fit Testing
This method certifies a respirator provides a seal with no leakage by utilizing a head enclosure, a tasting agent of either Saccarin Aerosol or Bitrex Aerosol and a series of 6 exercises. These exercises are designed to mimic normal work activities and certify that gravity, body movement and speech do not compromise the seal.

Qualitative fit testing can be used for Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFR’s), most commonly an N95, or half-face respirators. NOTE: When choosing the make/model of your N95 make sure they are NISOH certified/approved.

Quantitative Fit Testing
This method of certification employs an OSHA approved CNP (Controlled Negative Pressure) technology to determine seal-leakage and provides a fit factor as certification of the seal.  Quantifit testing can be used for half-face respirators and is required for full-face or SCBA respirators. The same “pre-test” checks mentioned above are also provided for quantitative fit testing.

Irritant Smoke is also an approved testing protocol for full face respirators. This method requires the respirator has filters attached.

How We Can Help
EI is here to assist you with your annual respirator protection initiatives. If you’d like to schedule an appointment or have additional questions, please contact Wendy Loomis at (919) 459-5265 [email protected].