Individuals granted access to the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant Chemical Limited Area, or those who work in areas with hazardous chemicals or materials, are issued a protective mask, and a proper fit is key to its protection.
“A quantitative fit test is performed to ensure the size of the mask is correct,” said Merri Johnson, operations support superintendent, PCAPP.
The employee is asked to don a mask, which is hooked up to a respirator fit tester, and perform a series of eight tests: normal breathing, deep breathing, turning the head side to side, moving the head up and down, talking, grimacing, bending over and, once again, normal breathing. Throughout the testing, an operator is standing by to make sure the person isn’t having difficulty breathing.
“The test makes sure that the seal isn’t broken while performing routine activities,” Johnson said. “The grimace portion is intended to break the seal to ensure the mask will reseal.”
A particle generator and respirator fit tester work together to properly fit the mask. The generator puts particulates (salt) into the mask fit room and the tester measures the number of particles in the air with one hose, and the number of particles in the mask with another.
“We make sure there are enough particles in the air and none inside the mask,” Johnson said.
Six different types of masks are issued at PCAPP and the mask fitting process is the same for each mask. Before any mask is issued to an employee, it is tested for leaks.