Requirements and challenges
RPE is a particular type of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect the wearer from breathing in harmful substances (or from oxygen-deficient atmospheres) when other controls are either not possible or insufficient on their own.
Face fit testing is important to ensure that your face mask serves its purpose. If you don’t have your face mask face fit tested to you it will not be able to achieve a seal to your face. You don’t achieve a seal you are letting harmful substances pass around the mask and therefore inhaling them.
Initially a COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002) risk assessment was carried out to select the correct RPE.
This included ensuring the RPE was both adequate and suitable, as such:
Adequate – It is right for the hazard and reduces exposure to the level required to protect the wearer’s health?
Suitable – It is right for the wearer, task and environment, such that the wearer can work freely and without additional risks due to the RPE?
People come in different shapes and sizes, so facial differences will mean that one kind of RPE is unlikely to fit all; therefore, if you are considering RPE with a tight-fitting facepiece, each wearer should undergo a ‘face fit’ test, as we completed with Twinings.
The differences are even more significant between men, women, and people of different ethnicity. If the RPE does not fit, it will not protect the wearer.
One significant factor is if the wearer has facial hair; this will prevent an effective seal around the face and in these instances a different form of RPE is required, such as positive fed types. Again, it must be ensured that the filtration is adequate to reduce the hazard to a suitable level.
Qualitative (indicative) face fit testing can only be used on disposable half mask respirators or reusable half mask respirators (either powered or passive), for either dusts, vapours or gases. Quantitative face fit testing is required for full face respirators.