The importance of N95 respirator masks
Fit testing is the process where an N95 respirator mask is tested to make sure that it properly fits a healthcare workers face and provides the proper protection required when working in environments where airborne pathogens present a danger.
Faces come in all different shapes and sizes as do N95 respirator masks. The purpose of fit testing is to determine which make and model of mask properly fits each workers face shape. This means a facility or clinic will be required to keep several different mask models available for staff.
An N95 Respirator must form a tight seal around the edges of the mask. The only way to ensure this tight seal is to be properly fit tested by a certified company or individual. Without fit testing an N95 respirator provides little more protection than a standard earloop mask.
N95 respirators are regulated by the CDC's body called NIOSH. Only masks that are stamped with a NIOSH number on the actual mask and proof of NIOSH registration printed on the box can be considered a NIOSH approved N95 respirator mask.
There is no substitution for proper fit testing used in conjunction with a proper NIOSH certified respirator mask.
Please keep in mind the fact that Covid-19 is making the availability of all N95 respirator masks extremely challenging. If you are choosing N95 masks to fit test your staff try and ensure that you will have continued availability of the masks your staff have been fit tested for.
Helpful links to learn more about Fit testing and N95 Respirator masks:
A current list of NIOSH approved respirators, managed by the CDC
CDC - NIOSH Approved respirator masks
From the Government of Canada:
Optimizing the use masks and N95 respirators during the Covid-19 outbreak.
From the CDC frequently asked question about fit testing:
Frequently Asked Questions about Respiratory Protection, Fit
Products available from Surgo during Covid-19