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Regarding a fit test, what is the rainbow passage and why is it said?

By Jessica Barrett | Last updated: February 21, 2019
Presented by Moldex

When it comes to respirators, fit testing is critically important, and OSHA advocates for it on a regular basis. Though it can be laborious and time consuming, it helps avert potential tragedy that could result from respirator fit changes over time (learn about the 6 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Respiratory Protection Device).

During a fit test, the employee must perform seven different exercises (and repeat one):

  1. Normal breathing while in a normal standing position
  2. Deep breathing while in a normal standing position
  3. Turning head side to side slowly, while standing in one place
  4. Moving head up and down slowly, while standing in one place
  5. Talking out loud, slowly and loudly enough to be heard clearly by the test conductor
  6. Grimacing
  7. Bending over
  8. Normal breathing while in a normal standard position (again)

The “rainbow passage” is used as part of the fifth exercise: talking. It’s a short and phonetically balanced passage that reflects the variety of sounds and mouth movements used in normal, unscripted English speech. Having employees read the passage as part of the fit test ensures that they can carry out normal speech patterns while wearing the respirator (read about How to Improve Air Quality in Your Workspace (Even if You Don't Have a Dedicated Safety Crew)).


The “rainbow passage” reads as follows:

When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look, but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Written by Jessica Barrett

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Jessica is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto, Canada. She specializes in creating content for nonprofits and has written for organizations working in human rights, conservation, education, and health care. She loves traveling and food, speaks Spanish, and has two dogs, one of whom she rescued while living in Mexico.

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