A qualitative fit test is a pass/fail test that relies on the employee’s response to a test agent. The OSHA protocols include saccharin, isoamyl acetate (banana oil), Bitrex and irritant smoke.
For a saccharin or Bitrex test, an administrator challenges a subject wearing a respirator with a test aerosol. The subject dons the respirator and a fit test hood. The test aerosol (saccharin or Bitrex) is sprayed inside the hood while the subject performs prescribed exercises. If the subject can taste the test agent, the respirator fails the test and another respirator must be tested. Prior to conducting the test, the administrator must determine if the subject can detect the test agent. If the subject can’t detect the test agent, another one that can be detected must be used. The fit test procedure requires about 15 to 20 minutes.