Face Fit Testing (RPE)



How can I ensure I am meeting Health and Safety requirements under COSHH with Face Fit Testing and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)



Where respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is used as a control measure under Health and Safety Legislation, it is vital that the selected RPE is adequate and suitable. RPE must reduce exposure to as low as reasonably practicable, and in any case to an acceptable level (e.g. below any applicable Workplace Exposure Limits or Control Limits).

To ensure that the selected RPE (disposable & re-usable face masks) have the potential to provide adequate protection for individual wearers, the (COSHH / CLAW) ACoPs (Approved Code of Practices) stipulate that tight-fitting RPE must be fit qualitative tested as part of the selection process. This will help to ensure that inadequately fitting facepieces are not selected for use. Ill-fitting facepieces can create inward leakages of airborne contaminants.

Our staff are trained to carry out qualitative face fit tests. Face fit testing is carried out to determine whether an operatives RPE is offering an adequate seal around the face. This is important as the mask could be deemed ineffective if there isn’t a good seal on the face. Each person has a different shaped face and therefore one mask that may be effective for one person, could offer no protection for another person.

One problem that operatives may be presented with is that if they are not clean shaven, the mask will not seal properly to the face, leaving gaps in the seal which allows ‘dirty’ air to pass through into the lungs. However, there may be good reasons for having a beard such as religion, in this case another form of RPE should be provided, ideally one that does not require a tight fit to the face.

It is law that employers ensure prevention of employee exposure to hazardous substances at work.

RPE must be adequate, meaning that it is right for the hazard and reduces the exposure to protect the health of the wearer. RPE must also be suitable for the task and environment so that the wearer is not restricted and the RPE does not create additional risks.

If the employee’s masks haven’t been fitted appropriately, it can cause health risks such as; lung disease; hepatitis or cancer.


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