Face Fit Testing

Face Fit Testing

If you wear a mask at work that relies on making a seal with your face then you need a face fit test.

Who should be tested?

All wearers of tight fitting face pieces e.g. respirators or compressed air breathing apparatus require a fit test.
Why wear high performance respiratory protective equipment, then compromise the protection given if the mask does not fit the wearer correctly?

Why do we need it?

To ensure that the protective mask you wear is suitable for your face profile in order to maximise protection against harmful airborne substances.
Recent research has shown that around 50% of RPE used does not offer the wearer the level of protection assumed. The major reason for this is that is simply does not fit.

What are the legal requirements?

The supporting guidance for COSHH, CLaW and CAW recommends face fit testing as a method of ensuring an adequate face seal.
The HSE may prosecute for not testing unless it can be proven that procedures meet or exceed the face fit testing protocol laid down in HSE guidance, OC 282/28.

What is Face Fit testing?

A face fit test is a simple test which checks whether a person’s mask fits their face shape and size.
When worn correctly RPE (respiratory protective equipment) should protect the wearer from airborne hazards (particulates, dusts, gases etc).  As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face piece will fit everyone. A face fit test will help ensure that the RPE selected is suitable for the wearer.

Morally

Morally we have a duty to ensure that workers go home safe and are not exposed to airborne hazards during their work.

Legally

Legally, face fit testing is a requirement of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, the Control of Lead at Work Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations. These regulations state that PPE must be “suitable” for its purpose.  In this case it should protect the wearer from the airborne hazard.

Close fitting masks

All wearers of tight fitting or close fitting face pieces require a face fit test for each mask that they wear. The following are all defined as ‘close fitting’: full breathing apparatus masks (including positive pressure), escape set masks, powered respirators, re-usable half masks and disposable half masks.

When to do Face Fit testing

Ideally face fit testing should be carried out at mask selection stage.  Employers will then ensure that the correct mask, models and sizes can be purchased. Repeat face fit testing should also be carried out on a regular basis. Typically this is every one, two or three years depending on risk.  It could also be if the wearer loses or gains weight, has significant dental work, or gains scars, moles or other facial features where the mask seal meets the face.

There are two forms of face fit testing, qualitative and quantitative.  Both result in matching an individual’s face shape with a compatible mask to ensure a tight seal is achieved. A face fit test is a simple 20 minute test.

Qualitative Testing
  • Used only for disposable and half face masks.
  • The individual wears a hood over the head and shoulders and the tester sprays a bitter solution into the hood.
  • The wearer carries out a series of exercises, such as turning the head from side to side.
  • If the individual can taste the solution, there is a break in the mask’s seal.
Quantitative Testing
  • Used for all tight fitting respirators, including Full Face Masks.
  • The mask is attached to a particle counting machine (a Portacount).
  • The machine detects whether airborne particles are passing into the mask via a break in the seal.
  • At the end of the test the machine will give a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

If you need any assistance with Face Fit testing, get in touch and we will be able to help you.

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