Dental office managers need to add another step to their new employee onboarding process

As dental offices being to evaluate what “normal” looks like in a Coronavirus world, they need to evaluate everything they did before, including the new employee onboarding checklist. With more emphasis on PPE, dental office managers will need to think about adjusting their hiring checklist to include a fit test for those using a N95 mask. A N95 fit test tests the seal between the N95 mask face piece and the wearer’s face. The test usually takes 15-20 minutes to complete and includes selecting the proper mask, testing the fit and properly recording the test date.

Offer a reasonable selection of N95 masks

The ADA states that employers need to provide staff with a reasonable selection of N95 masks of different styles and fits to try on. If a certain model or size does not fit properly, try new sizes, models or styles until one fits properly.

Perform the fit test

Next, perform a fit test like the qualitative fit test, which is the most common fit test in dentistry. The qualitative fit test is a pass/fail test that relies on the wearer’s sense of taste or smell, or their reaction to an irritant, to detect leakage. The mask fails the test if the wearer can detect any leakage of the test substance. OSHA has accepted four qualitative fit test methods including:

  1. Isoamly acetate, which smells like bananas;
  2. Saccharin, which leaves a sweet taste in your mouth;
  3. Bitrex, which leaves a bitter taste in your mouth;
  4. Irritant smoke, which causes coughing.


Ensure proper recordkeeping

Once a fit test has been conducted and passed, make sure to record the date to of the fit test. Employers have a responsibility to ensure proper fit and recordkeeping requirements of OSHA’s respiratory protection stands are met before staff can use the N95 mask at work. Also, once the wearer has found a mask that passes the fit test, they should always use that mask. Additionally, replacement and reordering is much simpler as the wearer knows the model and size that provides the appropriate fit. Finally, OSHA requires that training and fit testing be completed annually before the anniversary date of the employee’s previous training and fit test to ensure proper protection.

For more information on qualitative fit, visit the fit test resource on OSHA’s website.