How Do You Know Your Mask Is Protecting You?

This is an important question to ask as a healthcare professional. Respiratory protection preparedness can be the most important step in the protection of workers from contagious diseases, from a worldwide pandemic or community influenza outbreak in addition to patients with an infectious disease.

Since the first gas masks used in World War I, it’s been clear that poorly fitting masks put wearers at risk. To improve outcomes, researchers developed methods to test the fit of a mask to its wearer. Early respirator fit testing usually involved exposing the wearer to a concentrated smell inside a hood. If the wearer detected the odor, the respirator fit was inadequate.

Respirator fit testing is a key component of any respiratory protection programme, protecting staff from airborne hazards. Businesses with workers wearing respirators are required by INDG479 to perform respirator fit testing. There are two basic types of fit tests: Quantitative Fit Testing (QNFT) and Qualitative Fit Testing (QLFT).

What is Quantitative Fit Testing?

QNFT first came on the scene in mid-1980s. The PortaCount Respirator Fit Tester was a pioneering product for quantitative respirator fit testing. Developed by TSI, the PortaCount features a sampling device installed on the respirator allowing the probe to sample air from inside the mask.

The PortaCount uses ambient aerosol as the challenge agent to test a respirator while worn. Using an instrument called a Condensation Nuclei Counter, the PortaCount grows microscopic particles to an optically detectable size. It then counts them, measuring both inside and outside the respirator. The PortaCount software calculates this ratio – Cout/Cin – to give a fit factor (FF) for the respirator. The instrumentation is typically capable of measuring fit factors of 10,000 and higher. Quantitative respirator fit testing doesn’t depend on the wearer’s sense of smell or taste, but instead counts particles and calculates a fit factor to give an objective reading.

QLFT is a low cost, subjective pass/fail test that exposes the respirator wearer to a chemical stimulant (while donning a test hood) that can only be detected if the respirator leaks. Multiple challenges exist for QLFT, including operator error, operator fatigue, subjective results and recordkeeping challenges. For decades, this qualitative method was the only test available. It relied entirely on the subject’s honesty and ability to sense odors or chemical irritants. Concerns about the effectiveness and subjectivity of qualitative fit tests were widespread. Researchers applied themselves to developing better, more data-driven fit test methods.
Health and safety experts recognized that measuring fit factor by quantitative fit testing is a superior method to qualitative fit testing.

Fit test any disposable respirator

The PortaCount® Respirator Fit Tester Model 8048 is the only quantitative instrument that works for any type or brand of disposable masks.

  • Simplify your fit test programme with one consistent, objective and automated testing experience across any respirator.
  • Eliminate the guesswork and subjectivity associated with qualitative testing methods such as Saccharin and Bitrex® by attaining a better measure of a respirator’s fit.
  • Achieve a better respirator fit for more staff in less time. The PortaCount Fit Tester boosts your productivity by making the entire respirator training and fit testing process more efficient.
  • Provide your staff with a fit test that teaches how and when their respirator provides adequate protection. PortaCount Fit Testers combine real-time and real-world measurements to advance respirator safety beyond what any other fit test can deliver.

Choose the industry’s most trusted fit tester to increase your staff’s safety, while new software and features improve your program’s efficiency and productivity.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust rely on the PortaCount

The Infection Prevention and Control Team at the Trust are responsible for providing over 4,000 frontline staff members with respirator fit tests to ensure the FFP3 masks they use are protecting them. Prior to 2018 at the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals, NHS Trust fit testing was carried out using the Qualitative Hood method. As a result, some staff lost confidence in the accuracy of the system. To resolve this issue, the Trust made the decision to invest in a Quantitative Fit Testing solution.They chose to invest in the PortaCount® Respirator Fit Tester, which has been a successful solution for the issues the Bimingham and Sandwell Trust have faced. Ultimately, users of the PortaCount Fit Tester feel it is a much more accurate test than qualitative methods of fit testing.

Please read the complete case study here.

TSI Instruments Ltd
Stirling Road
Cressex Business Park
High Wycombe

01494 45920

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