Mask & EARfit Testing

Fit testing on both respirators and ear protection, is now mandatory in numerous countries across the world. Respirator mask fit testing in Perth provides for a more stable fit, while it determines the mask’s ability to maintain its seal, while the wearer is going about their business. A respirator that bounces around is obviously a cause for concern.

By now you understand the importance of fit testing, but how exactly does it work?


With respirator mask fit testing, subjects undergo several exercises as part of the process. However, there are two types of tests than can be conducted, depending on the scenario. We will have a brief look at Qualitative (QLFT) and Quantitative (QNFT) mask fit testing in Perth, what it involves, and how they differ from each other.

QLFT will rely on the senses; taste and smell, and any irritation that might be caused as a result of the test substances. One of the four substances used are;

  • Isoamyl Acetate – it has a distinct banana-like smell
  • Bitrex – as the name suggests, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth
  • Saccharin – in contrast to the above, it leaves behind a sweet taste
  • Smoke – leads to coughing.

In addition, these methods use several exercises that has to be performed for one minute each;

  • Normal breathing
  • Deep breathing
  • Move your head about (up, down and sideways)
  • Bending or jogging in place
  • Talking
  • Back to normal breathing

This is literally just a pass or fail test; it does not measure the amount of leakage that gets through the seal, so the test is purely based on leakage detection. QLFT is typically reserved only for half-mask respirators, so it is less commonly used.

The QNFT method, on the other hand, generates a numerical assessment of the fit through the use of an instrument like PortaCount. Not to get too technical, but this includes an assessment of controlled negative pressure (CNP for short) and ambient condensation nuclei counter. This method provides a reading in a numerical result called a fit factor, and does not rely on the senses for an accurate assessment. A QNFT test relies on the same exercises mentioned above, with an additional “face-pulling” test where the wearer has to smile or frown for 15 seconds.

Mask fit testing in Perth utilises the PortaCount fit tester, which allows for even faster testing, while complying with new CNC protocols. It takes the guesswork out of actual protection, as results are numeric. A fit factor of at least 100 is required for half-mask respirators, and a minimum of 500 for a full-face respirator. PortaCount has streamlined mask fitting, as test time has been reduced from an average of 7.15 minutes to 2.29, as per their product page.


Similar to mask fit testing, EARfit testing is equally crucial in its relevant environment. Hearing conservation research was conducted at thirteen facilities, and the results have shown a significant reduction in age-corrected hearing loss at the facilities that did implement EARfit testing. Testing can also be qualitative or quantitative, but the optimal EARfit testing in Peth is the latter – as with mask fit testing. Quantitative is objective, and does not rely on feedback from the wearer. Qualitative EARfit testing has been criticized for being far too generous in their estimations of noise attenuation, as testing might take place in perfect conditions, and once again, relies on the potentially skewed feedback of the person who has to rely on the PPE.

EARfit testing in Perth makes the best use of the 3M E-A-Rfit Dual Ear Validation System. It is quite a mouthful, possibly because it can do everything one will come to expect from fit testing system. The system is quite elegant in its simplicity. Tests take approximately 10 seconds per ear for 7 frequencies, – 125Hz to 8000HZ – and the results are numerically gathered.

It bridges the gap between estimates and real attenuation. Data is collated and gathered within seconds, with clear and accurate results. These results will be saved electronically for future reference. It measures every employee’s own unique requirements as their Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) is measured and stored. As an extra bonus, compliance documents are easily accessible.


We hope this information is useful in understanding Mask and EARfit Testing.