Qualitative Face Fit Testing

What is Face Fit Testing?

Face fit testing is the process of verifying that an individual’s Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) functions as it was designed i.e. to protect the wearer whilst they carry out their work activities.

The types of respirator that require fit testing are those that have a tight fitting facepiece such as a disposable face mask, a half mask and full face mask, this includes those that form part of a powered or air-fed system. 

Carrying out the face fit testing does not replace checking for general wear and tear on the RPE and the wearer should still be checking their RPE before use. If the product begins showing signs of damage or deterioration it is to be replaced or, if possible, the component part is to be replaced. 

Qualitative vs Quantitative?

Qualitative fit testing is a pass/fail test based on the wearer’s subjective assessment of any leakage from the face seal region, by sensing the introduction of a test agent (typically a bitter or sweet tasting aerosol). These tests are suitable for disposable masks and half masks. They are not suitable for full face masks.

Quantitative fit testing provides a numerical measure of the masks fit, called a fit factor. These tests give an objective measure of face fit, they require specialised equipment and are more complicated to carry out than the qualitative as they require either a laboratory test chamber or portable fit test devices. Quantitative testing is suitable for full face masks (but can also be used for half masks).

Is Face Fit Testing a Legal Requirement?

In short - Yes, face fit testing is a legal requirement for anyone who wears a tight (or close) fitting mask for work. The Approved Codes of Practice supporting the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH), Control of Lead at Work (CLaW), Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) and the Ionising Radiation Regulations, stipulate that fit testing should be carried out as part of the initial mask selection process. This ensures that the selected RPE can provide adequate protection for the wearer when carrying out their required duties.

Fit Testing should be carried out regular intervals and users of RPE should be re-tested if:

  • their weight significantly changes, 
  • they receive major dental work,
  • they have new facial piercings around the face seal area,
  • they sustain a facial injury, or
  • the user is issued with a different brand of disposable/reusable mask.

Once you have been face fit tested and you received a test for wearing a half mask or a full mask, there is an additional requirement for individual/s to have their RPE checked by a supervisor/manager on a monthly basis. This is to verify the following:

  • the cleanliness of the RPE,
  • the condition of the filters (i.e. visible damage or water ingress can render the filters useless); and
  • the condition of the facepiece, seals, valves along with any head straps and buckles.

New employees should be tested during their period of induction to the business so that the correct mask can be found for them or at least ordered if one is not available at the time of induction. Face fit testing should always be carried out by a competent face fit tester. 

We can help take that pressure off you by carrying out your face fit testing for your organisation. We will travel to your place of work or come out to you onsite to carry out dedicated sessions that will maintain your compliance with regulations and your due diligence to your employees who are required to wear RPE.

Contact us for all of your Qualitative Face Fit Testing requirements.

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