Face Fit Testing – When is it required?
Employers must carry out face fit testing if they require their employees to wear a mask that relies on a seal with the face to work effectively. With masks now being used in workplaces that haven’t needed them before, face fit testing is more important than ever.
What is a Face Fit Test?
What does it mean to have a good face fit with your respirator? It’s the contact between the mask and the wearer’s skin. An inadequate fit will significantly reduce the effectiveness of the RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment).
There are two types of face fit test : qualitative test and the quantitative test. Qualitative testing requires the judgement of the wearer’s sense of smell and taste. Quantitative testing uses equipment and algorithms to determine the effectiveness numerically.
If it’s not possible to obtain RPE with an adequate fit for the wearer, then you should select another type of RPE that doesn’t rely on a tight-fitting face seal, such as a loose fitting hood or helmet.
Any face fit tests made with suitable RPE should be recorded and kept for 5 years. Tests should be conducted by fit testers.
Fit testers need to be competent and this can be demonstrated with accreditation under the Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme. Fit testers have a duty under health and safety at work legislation because if the test has not been carried out properly this could expose the RPE user to substances hazardous to health due to facepiece leakage.
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.
The wearer should not have any growth or hair between their skin and the facepiece sealing surface. The wearer should also be medically fit to wear RPE and seek confirmation (in writing) from the employer.
Unlike qualitative methods, quantitative testing isn’t reliant on the person, and uses methods such as particle counting to effectively measure the quality of the seal. Quantitative testing can be used for any type of RPE, including full face breathing apparatus.
How often should a Face Fit Test be carried out?
A face fit test should be carried out prior to using any type of seal dependant RPE for the first time. It will also be required every time an employee replaces their mask, following a change to their facial features (e.g. losing weight), or, after the passage of time, where repeated use may damage the integrity of the seal.
As an employer, if you are unsure of where you stand with face fit testing, we at Safety For Design are here to guide you on this matter and any other relating to workplace health and safety.