Respirator Fit Testing: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Analysis

Health & SafetyMining 03 Jul 2024

Over the past two years, respirator fit testing has become a focal point in workplace health and safety (WHS) discussions. The introduction of the new silica Code of Practice in May 2023 has prompted many companies to re-evaluate their respiratory protection requirements. Following guidance from AS NZS 1715:2009, a company’s mandatory respiratory protection program must include fit testing of any required respiratory protective equipment (RPE). This has led businesses to consider in-house fit testing for their employees who must wear RPE.

KINNECT Training advocates for in-house testing when executed conscientiously. Ensuring that workers consistently wear the right respiratory protection equipment is crucial, and in-house fit testing can achieve this goal effectively. However, the common question arises: “What type of fit testing should we be doing?” The decision typically boils down to choosing between qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective) testing methods.


Qualitative Respirator Fit Testing (QLFT-ATT)

Qualitative fit testing involves assessing the seal of a respirator by exposing the wearer to a flavoured aerosol inside a confined space. The user identifies the taste of the aerosol at a diluted level, and then a stronger concentration is introduced. If the wearer tastes the solution while moving or speaking, the test fails. This method is subjective, relying on the wearer’s ability to detect the challenge agent, and sensitivity can vary.


  • Can be performed anywhere with good ventilation.
  • No need for additional equipment beyond the fit test kit.
  • Quick and relatively simple to conduct after training.


  • Subject to taste sensitivity variations.
  • Limited to half masks and disposable masks.
  • High risk of employee deception due to subjectivity.
  • Health risks include allergic reactions and potential carbon dioxide build-up.


Quantitative Respirator Fit Testing (QNFT-CNC)

Quantitative fit testing utilizes a particle counting machine to determine respirator seal leakage. The machine compares ambient particulate matter outside the respirator with that inside, providing an objective score. While the equipment is more expensive, it can be rented at reasonable rates.


  • Objective and reliable results.
  • Real-time particle count allows immediate assessment.
  • Minimal health and safety risks.
  • Pre-test assesses respirator viability before fit testing.


  • Higher initial costs for equipment.
  • Requires an electricity source and specific testing area dimensions.


In conclusion, the choice between qualitative and quantitative fit testing involves weighing factors such as cost, ease of use, and reliability. While qualitative testing is more accessible initially, quantitative testing offers objectivity, speed, and greater reliability. Considering the long-term benefits and reliability, quantitative fit testing is the recommended choice by KINNECT Training.

Whether an organisation decides to utilise qualitative or quantitative respirator fit testing, the development of skilled practitioners will be critical to the quality and reliability of the program. You can learn more about the respirator fit test training, including qualitative and quantitative fit testing requirements by visitng our course page.


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