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Face Fit Testing

What is face fit testing and why do I need it?

respiratorsWhere respiratory protective equipment or RPE is used as a control measure under Health and Safety Legislation, it is vital that the selected RPE is adequate and suitable. This is achieved through face fit testing.

To ensure that the selected RPE has the potential to provide adequate protection for individual wearers, tight-fitting RPE must be face fit tested. Qualitative face fit testing can be used on what are defined as tight fitting respirators, with the exception of full face masks.

This includes half face masks and disposable face masks. The performance of these types of face pieces rely heavily on the quality of fit of the face piece to the wearer’s face.

3M Face fit testing kitAn inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer. The presence of facial hair in the region of the face seal will significantly reduce the protection provided.

As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type, or size of RPE face piece, will fit everyone. Fit testing will help ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer. Check our Training Calendar out for Face Fit Open Days were we will carry out the process of testing personal protection equipment. Or click here to visit the face fit test booking page to book your appointment now!

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What do I need to do before face fit testing?

You must not eat, drink (small sips of water are okay) or chew gum for at least 15 minutes prior to the test. 

 You must refrain from smoking for at least 1 hour prior to the test.

You must be clean shaven (a wet shave is required).

A fit test cannot be conducted if you have any facial hair growth in the area where face piece seal meets your face.  This is because a reliable face seal can only be achieved if you are clean-shaven in the area where the face piece seal touches your face.  You will therefore need to be suitably clean-shaven for the fit test.

You should remember that the same rule applies when you wear your face piece on a day-to-day basis at work.  If you are unable to be suitably clean shaven for an unavoidable reason (e.g. where a beard is worn for religious reasons), then your employer should provide you with a suitable loose-fitting face piece which does not require you to be clean-shaven, or make alternative arrangements so that the risks to your health are either prevented or adequately controlled.

You should be able to fit the face piece in the manner in which you have been trained and without assistance from the fit tester.  You should know how to carry out a pre-use check of your face piece.

During the fit test you will be asked to perform simple exercises.  The person carrying out the test will explain the reasons for you carrying out the exercises.  If you have any medical condition which may prevent you from performing these exercises then you should bring this to the attention of the fit tester and your employer.

How often should I have a face fit test?

If you need to change to another type of face piece; you lose or gain weight; undergo any substantial dental work or develop facial imperfections (scars, moles, etc) around the face seal area.

Your employer may also have a policy that you have a fit test every year or two for example.

Will I be able to move employment without having another face fit test?

If you change your employer but still continue to wear the same face piece, including the same model and size, you should not have to be retested; your new employer, however, may wish for you to have another fit test.

What if I normally wear more than one type of respirator?

If you need to wear more than one type of respirator for your job e.g a half face mask or a disposable dust mask respirator then you should be fit tested for each type of face piece.

Who should pay for the face fit test?

Your employer is responsible for your health and safety whilst you’re at work, therefore they are responsible for the cost of the test.

Can I be fit tested in the face piece I usually wear?

The fit test will be carried out using the face piece you normally wear or one identical to it.

If you are to be fit tested in your own face piece then you or your employer should ensure that the face piece is clean and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: HSE guidance states that fit testing cannot be carried out on a face piece that is not maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

What will I be told at the end of the face fit test?

When we have completed the fit test you will be told if your face piece is effective or ineffective.  If it is effective, this means that the face piece is suitable for you.  An ineffective fit test result may indicate that the face piece does not fit you properly.

You will be given a copy of the report we produce and a copy will be sent to your employer (or the person who booked the test) along with a certificate to prove the effectiveness of your mask.

What will happen if my face piece is found to be ineffective?

The fit tester should ask you to refit the face piece and repeat the fit test.  If a better fit is not obtained you may be asked to try on a different size or type of face piece and repeat the test again.

You should not use a face piece that does not fit you properly.

The fit tester should inform your employer (or the person who booked your test).  Your employer should then ensure that you are provided with a face piece that fits you properly.

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