Face Fit Testing – The Legal Requirement
- Pictured: TSI 8048 PortaCount Machine – used for Quantitative Fit Testing (QNFT). Click here to find out more.
Did you know: If you use tight-fitting RPE in your business, you have a legal requirement to ensure your employees are provided with suitable and adequate RPE that fits properly and has passed a face fit test?
To see whether or not tight-fitting RPE is required in your workplace, you will need to complete a risk assessment to assess the risks posed by your work practices and implement the appropriate control measures.
Where your risk assessment has identified the need for tight-fitting RPE, to protect against the inhalation of hazardous substances, it is the company’s responsibility to ensure that the RPE will protect the wearer. This means selecting RPE that is:
- Adequate – right for the hazard, reducing exposure to the level required to protect the wearer’s health.
- Suitable – right for the wearer, task and environment, so that the wearer can work freely and without additional risks due to the RPE.
In order to be suitable for the wearer, the Approved Code of Practice for the Control of substances hazardous to health regulations 2002 requires that tight-fitting RPE should be face fit tested by a competent individual as part of the selection process.
Face fit testing is a term used to describe a few different processes which assess whether a given respirator can properly seal to an individual’s face so that potentially hazardous air in the environment is inhaled through the filters. If a face fit test cannot be passed and a seal cannot be achieved, the respirator does not fit and a different size/model of RPE should be selected.
A number of factors can impact the seal of a tight-fitting respirator including: makeup, facial scarring, changes in weight and facial hair.
It is recommended that a person undertake a face fit test whilst wearing their work clothing and any additional PPE required to ensure nothing else worn will interrupt the seal. It is also recommended that a repeated face fit test be taken every 1-2 years, or sooner if a person experiences any facial injuries, jaw surgery or significant weight loss/gain.
Tight-fitting RPE should also NOT be worn if there is any hair growth between the respirator and the wearer’s face – including stubble – as this too can negatively impact the suitability of the seal. Being clean-shaven when wearing tight-fitting RPE will ensure a more consistent seal can be achieved and helps to prevent inward leakage of contaminated air from around the edges of the face seal being breathed into the lungs.
The HSE require that tight-fitting RPE wearers be clean shaven no more than 8 hours before the start of their shift, or alternative RPE (such as a loose fitting PAPR) be used instead.
It is also RPE is put on correctly and checked for a good fit every time it is put on using a fit check.
Please note, under health and safety law, it is no longer possible for employers to require their workers to be clean shaven. This is because alternative RPE options are available and can be used instead.