The effect of subject characteristics and respirator features on respirator fit

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2005 Dec;2(12):641-9. doi: 10.1080/15459620500391668.


A recent study was conducted to compare five fit test methods for screening out poor-fitting N95 filtering-facepiece respirators. Eighteen models of NIOSH-certified, N95 filtering-facepiece respirators were used to assess the fit test methods by using a simulated workplace protection factor (SWPF) test. The purpose of this companion study was to investigate the effect of subject characteristics (gender and face dimensions) and respirator features on respirator fit. The respirator features studied were design style (folding and cup style) and number of sizes available (one size fits all, two sizes, and three sizes). Thirty-three subjects participated in this study. Each was measured for 12 face dimensions using traditional calipers and tape. From this group, 25 subjects with face size categories 1 to 10 tested each respirator. The SWPF test protocol entailed using the PortaCount Plus to determine a SWPF based on total penetration (face-seal leakage plus filter penetration) while the subject performed six simulated workplace movements. Six tests were conducted for each subject/respirator model combination with redonning between tests. The respirator design style (folding style and cup style) did not have a significant effect on respirator fit in this study. The number of respirator sizes available for a model had significant impact on respirator fit on the panel for cup-style respirators with one and two sizes available. There was no significant difference in the geometric mean fit factor between male and female subjects for 16 of the 18 respirator models. Subsets of one to six face dimensions were found to be significantly correlated with SWPFs (p < 0.05) in 16 of the 33 respirator model/respirator size combinations. Bigonial breadth, face width, face length, and nose protrusion appeared the most in subsets (five or six) of face dimensions and their multiple linear regression coefficients were significantly different from zero (p < 0.05). Lip length was found in only one subset. The use of face length and lip length as the criteria to define the current half-facepiece respirator fit test panel may need to be reconsidered when revising the panel. Based on the findings from this and previous studies, face length and face width are recommended measurements that should be used for defining the panel for half-facepiece respirators.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Equipment Design
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Materials Testing
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*
  • Sex Factors
  • Workplace