The Proper Fit for Wearing Respirators

How to Fit

Your Respirator


A Good Fit means you Increase your Protection:
Fitting Your RPE to You

By: The Working Man

If your RPE, or Respiratory Protective Equipment, doesn't fit you
then it will not protect you. If the RPE is worn incorrectly the
RPE will not protect you. Your face is uniquely different from
everyone else's and you will have to find the right brand and
size of RPE that fits your particular face shape.

If you are at a job site that requires RPE the employer should
have provided a range of brands and sizes to choose from and
everyone should undergo a facial fit-test for the particular type
RPE that is chosen for their job. It is very important that RPE
fit correctly and comfortable in case it has to be worn for long

Your respiratory protection face mask should fit flush to the
skin without gaps or bunches, nor should it bind the skin or
pinch. It should fit flat to your skin and provide a seal to your
skin without discomfort. This is just as important as whether or
not the RPE works, since it can only protect you if the outside
pollution is unable to get to your nose and mouth.

Once the RPE has been fitted to you it then should be carefully
re-inspected. The unit must be in good condition and the rubber
must be supple, without cracks or bends. You should also be shown
how to properly wear the RPE and if any adjustments need to be
made before you wear the RPE you should be shown how to do them
and do them properly.

The valves of the unit must be inspected especially for sticking
and blockage. Saliva and sweat often cause blockages in the
valves and either may clog up the unit. RPE units are often made
from rubber and the rubber should never be allowed to become old
and damaged.

The mask must fit tightly to the skin of the wearer. If you have
a beard or mustache you will have to shave them off because the
skin must meet the rubber to create a seal. Even a day's growth
of beard or mustache can cause the rubber not to seal properly to
your face.

A one day growth of beard has been shown to allow one percent of
penetration into the mask and that is not acceptable in places
that have high concentrations of carcinogenic or toxic substances
in the air. Even small beards or mustaches that fit within the
mask are not allowed because hair can and will fall off and clog
the valves of the mask causing the unit to fail.

Glasses can only be worn if they are designed to fit within or
around the mask of the RPE. The ear pieces of glasses are
notorious for breaking the seal around the mask behind the ear.
Those that need to wear glasses to see should be supplied with a
hood or helmet that is air supplied. Even people who wear contact
lenses will need to wear a hood or helmet.

The user of the RPE should be taught how to properly maintain
their RPE and change filter canisters and be provided
instructions on the RPE usage. There should also be drills and
periodic retraining on how to properly use and maintain RPE.

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