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) and 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 it simply does not fit. 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, but face fit testing will ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer.
Is Face Fit Testing a legal requirement?
Face fit testing is a legal requirement if your employees are working in potentially hazardous places, without it your employees are at risk of developing serious health issues that result in costly time off work. The supporting guidance for COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), CLAW (Control of Lead at Work), CAR (Control of Asbestos Regulations) and the Ionising Radiation Regulations, stipulate that fit testing should be carried out as part of the initial mask selection process.
When should Face Fit Testing be carried out?
Initially, Face Fit Testing is required for any new worker using Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) but regular re-testing should be carried out if the shape of the face has changed since the initial test and always when a new type of mask is introduced.
Why do you need Face Fit Testing?
Where RPE is worn by workers it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure they are adequately protected against harmful dust and chemicals. If the RPE is inadequate and your work exposes you to dust on a regular basis you may be at risk of developing (COPD) Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, other long term illnesses can include occupational asthma, silicosis and lung cancer. As individuals we are not all the same, we come in all shapes and sizes and one type of face mask does not necessarily suit all. Face shape, broken nose, weight gain/loss or simply a mole on the face can affect the fit and seal of your face mask, as can significant dental work or facial scarring.
What types of Face Fit Testing is required?
Qualitative testing can be used to determine the seal quality of disposable half-masks, and it can also be used for re-usable half mask respirator fit tests. It relies on the person’s sense of taste to determine the mask’s effectiveness. A low-cost effective pass/fail test is carried out where the user is exposed to a chemical stimulant (Bittrex) whilst wearing a hood, this is only detected if the mask fails and the seal is broken. Quantitative Face Testing is different. Unlike qualitative methods, this type of testing isn’t reliant on the person, and uses methods such as particle counting to effectively measure the quality of the seal.
Which types of masks need to be tested ?
Face fit testing is required for all of the following types of face masks:
- Disposable half masks
- Re-usable filter or cartridge half masks
- Powered respirators
- Full face filter or cartridge masks
- Escape set masks
- Full breathing apparatus masks
Midlands Health and Safety Consultancy offer a service of Qualitative Face Fit Testing. This is to insure that a 100% seal is achieved between the Respiratory Protective Equipment and the user. We then provide a certificate upon completion, which will complete the specific requirement under the COSHH Regulations.
For further information on Face Fit Testing, please contact us here.