EUA Respirators

Using a Disposable Respirator

Find instructions below on how to use a disposable respirator, how to perform a proper seal check & test the fit of your disposable mask. Wash your hands thoroughly before putting on and after taking off a respirator.

Putting On The Respirator

1) Position the respirator in your hands with the nose piece at your fingertips.

2) Cup the respirator in your hand allowing the headbands to hang below your hand. Hold the respirator under your chin with the nosepiece up.

3) The top strap (on single or double strap respirators) goes over and rests at the top back of your head. The bottom strap is positioned around the neck and below the ears. Do not crisscross straps.

4) Place your fingertips from both hands at the top of the metal nose clip (if present). Slide fingertips down both sides of the metal strip to mold the nose area to the shape of your nose.

Checking Your Seal

1) Place both hands over the respirator, take a quick breath to check whether the respirator seals tightly to the face.

2) Place both hands completely over the respirator and exhale. If you feel leakage, there is not a proper seal

3) If air leaks around the nose, readjust the nosepiece as described. If air leaks at the mask edges, re-adjust the straps along the sides of your head until a proper seal is achieved

4) If you cannot achieve a proper seal due to air leakage, ask for help or try a different size or model.

Removing Your Respirator

1) DO NOT TOUCH the front of the respirator! It may be contaminated.

2) Remove by pulling the bottom strap over back of head, followed by the top strap, without touching the respirator

3) Discard in waste container. WASH YOUR HANDS!

Performing a Seal Check

What is a User Seal Check?

A user seal check is a procedure conducted by the respirator wearer to determine if the respirator is being properly worn. The user seal check can either be a positive pressure or negative pressure check.

During a positive pressure user seal check, the respirator user exhales gently while blocking the paths for air to exit the facepiece. A successful check is when the facepiece is slightly pressurized before increased pressure causes outward leakage.

During a negative pressure user seal check, the respirator user inhales sharply while blocking the paths for air to enter the facepiece. A successful check is when the facepiece collapses slightly under the negative pressure that is created with this procedure.

A user seal check is sometimes referred to as a fit check. A user seal check should be completed each time the respirator is donned (put on). It is only applicable when a respirator has already been successfully fit tested on the individual.

How do I do a User Seal Check while Wearing a Filtering Facepiece Respirator?

Not every respirator can be checked using both positive and negative pressure. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for conducting user seal checks on any specific respirator. This information can be found on the box or individual respirator packaging.

The following positive and negative user seal check procedures for filtering facepiece respirators are provided as examples of how to perform these procedures.

How to do a positive pressure user seal check.

Once the particulate respirator is properly donned, place your hands over the facepiece, covering as much surface area as possible. Exhale gently into the facepiece. The face fit is considered satisfactory if a slight positive pressure is being built up inside the facepiece without any evidence of outward leakage of air at the seal. Examples of such evidence would be the feeling of air movement on your face along the seal of the facepiece, fogging of your glasses, or a lack of pressure being built up inside the facepiece.

If the particulate respirator has an exhalation valve, then performing a positive pressure check may be impossible. In such cases, a negative pressure check should be performed.

How to do a negative user seal check.

Negative pressure seal checks are typically conducted on particulate respirators that have exhalation valves. To conduct a negative pressure user seal check, cover the filter surface with your hands as much as possible and then inhale. The facepiece should collapse on your face and you should not feel air passing between your face and the facepiece.

In the case of either type of seal check, if air leaks around the nose, use both hands to readjust the nosepiece by placing your fingertips at the top of the metal nose clip. Slide your fingertips down both sides of the metal strip to more efficiently mold the nose area to the shape of your nose. Readjust the straps along the sides of your head until a proper seal is achieved.

If you cannot achieve a proper seal due to air leakage, you may need to be fit tested for a different respirator model or size.

Can a user seal check be considered a substitute for fit testing?

No. The user seal check does not have the sensitivity and specificity to replace either fit test methods, qualitative or quantitative, that are accepted by OSHA (29 CFR 1910.134). A user should only wear respirator models with which they have achieved a successful fit test within the last year. NIOSH data suggests that the added care from performing a user seal check leads to higher quality donnings (e.g., reduces the chances of a donning with a poor fit).

Fit Testing

What is a Respirator Fit Test?

A fit test is conducted to verify that a respirator is both comfortable and correctly fits the user. Fit test methods are classified as either qualitative or quantitative. A qualitative fit test is a pass/fail test that relies on the individual’s sensory detection of a test agent, such as taste, smell, or involuntary cough (a reaction to irritant smoke*). A quantitative fit test uses an instrument to numerically measure the effectiveness of the respirator.

The benefits of a fit test include better protection for the employee and verification that the employee is wearing a correctly-fitting model and size of respirator.1 Higher than expected levels of exposure to a contaminant may occur if the respirator has a poor face seal against the user’s skin, which can result in leakage.

How Often Must Fit Testing Be Conducted?

In addition to fit testing upon initially selecting a model of respirator, OSHA requires that fit testing be conducted annually, and repeated “whenever an employee reports, or the employer or the physician or other licensed health care professional makes visual observations of changes in the employee’s physical condition that could affect respirator fit (e.g., facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or an obvious change in body weight).”

The appropriate length of time between respirator fit tests has been a point of debate and discussion for many years due to its use of workplace time and resources, especially in reference to the commonly-used filtering facepiece respirator (FFR).3 In response to these concerns, NIOSH completed a study that confirmed the necessity of the current OSHA respirator fit testing requirement, both annually and when physical changes have occurred.

Can I Have Facial Hair and still be Fit Tested to Wear a Tight-Fitting Respirator?

The OSHA respirator standard prohibits tight-fitting respirators to be worn by workers who have facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face of the wearer. Facial hair that lies along the sealing area of a respirator, such as beards, sideburns, or some mustaches, will interfere with respirators that rely on a tight facepiece seal to achieve maximum protection.

Gases, vapors, and particles in the air will take the path of least resistance and bypass the part of the respirator that captures or filters hazards out. A common misconception is that human hair can act as a crude filter to capture any particles that are in the airstream between the sealing surface and the user’s skin. However, while human hair appears to be very thin to the naked eye, hair is much larger in size than the particles inhaled. Facial hair is not dense enough and the individual hairs are too large to capture particles like an air filter does; nor will a beard trap gases and vapors like the carbon bed in a respirator cartridge. Therefore, the vast majority of particles, gases, and vapors follow the air stream right through the facial hair and into respiratory tract of the wearer. In fact, some studies have shown that even a day or two of stubble can begin to reduce protection.

Do Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) Require Fit Testing?

The answer to this question depends on the type of facepiece that the respirator has. Any facepieces that form a tight seal to the wearer’s face, e.g., half-masks and full facepieces, must be fit tested. Loose-fitting PAPRs, in which the hood or helmet is designed to form only a partial seal with the wearer’s face or hoods which seal loosely around the wearer’s neck or shoulders, do not require fit testing.

Where can I Find More Information?

This information and more is available on the NIOSH Respirator Trusted-Source webpage.