Face Fit Testing

Face Fit Testing what’s it all about?

If respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is required, you must ensure it will provide the wearer adequate protection. Ill-fitting RPE will not protect the wearer. In order for RPE to be effective it needs to be tight fitting, this can be achieved with Face Fit Testing.

What types of masks need to be tested?

Tight fitting Face pieces; or masks, as the name suggests rely on creating a tight fit to the wearers face. Examples of a tight fitting mask include disposable half masks, reusable half masks and full face masks.

When is Face Fit Testing required?

If it has been identified that masks are required to safely undertake works then face fit testing should be conducted during the mask selection stage. If RPE is commonly used for work it is good practice to create a RPE programme.

How often is Face Fit Testing required?

There are a few circumstances to consider when it comes to repeat face fit testing. If there is a change to the RPE such as size, type, brand, model or there is a change to the wearer such as:

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes to facial structure around the seal area such as scarring, aging, moles etc.
  • Facial piercings
  • Dental work

There is no definitive timeframe as to when face fitting should be repeated, but where RPE is commonly used for work it is good practice to carry out a repeat test on a regular basis, be it every one, two or three years.

The simple answer is yes, it is a legal requirement to undertake face fit testing. What is the requirement – 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.  This ensures that inadequately fitting face pieces are not selected for use. 

For more information please refer to HSG53 Respiratory protective equipment at work HSG53 Respiratory protective equipment at work

Facial Hair

The most common question from our clients and their employees is, do I really have to shave? Tight fitting masks will only work if the seal area is, well, tight! Facial hair even as minute as stubble will impact the effectiveness of the seal, therefore making the mask inadequate. To prevent contaminates entering the mask and into your lungs then you need to be clean shaven. If there is a genuine reason for having facial hair such as medical or religious, then alternative forms of RPE are available, such as air powered, hooded respirator, that do not rely on a tight fit to the face.

Qualitative testing

We conduct qualitative face fit testing, which effectively tests the suitability of disposable and half face masks to the user.

The Test

  • Individual undertakes the sensitively test, this involves spraying a bitter solution in mist format into the individuals mouth, this helps to identify if the test will be effective.
  • Individual will then don the selected mask and have a hood placed over the head and shoulders.
  • Face fit solution is sprayed into the hood, again a bitter solution and the individual will undertake a number of exercises such as deep breathing and head movement exercises.
  • If at any point the individual can taste the solution the test will stop, mask readjusted or replaced and the tests repeated until a suitably fitting mask is found.

Can anyone conduct a face fit test?

Anyone deemed competent can conduct a fit test. HSQE Consultancy competent staff are JSP Fit2Fit Qualitative fit testing trained.

Record keeping

A record should be kept of the test which should clearly state the mask make, model and size of the mask tested. Records should be valid (up to date) and always available for inspection if required.

FFT typeIndividualHalf Day 4 HoursFull Day 8 Hours

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