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Just relax and breathe

Posted on May 13, 2022

By Steve Wallace.

Over the last two years we have all become familiar with the face mask. At times face mask wearing has even been mandatory, mainly in public areas and even though this requirement has now passed as Covid has begun to abate and affect our day-to-day lives less, many people still choose to wear one to maintain protection.

Mask wearing was a preventive measure to minimise the risk of breathing in coronavirus or breathing it out and passing it on. We had to do this to protect our health and the health of others.

Many people though never got to grips with mask wearing and even rejected the need to do so; even some of our legislators argued against it at times, despite the fact it was a good first line of defence against a deadly virus.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, we are very good at safety in this country. Of course accidents happen, but fortunately they are actually a rare occurrence. We are less good at health, however.

As a society we need to up our game in this area and deliver people to retirement age healthy enough to enjoy the rest of their life doing their hobbies – walking the dog, playing golf or running after the grandchildren. People at that age can have a range of health issues, of course, one of which is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD.

COPD usually develops because of long-term damage to lungs from breathing in a harmful substance, often cigarette smoke, but also smoke from other sources and air pollution. Jobs where people are exposed to dust, fumes and chemicals also contribute to developing COPD.

Breathing in nasties in industry over the years could be quite common, but it’s unacceptable. The problem is that people are not being harmed immediately and so alarm bells don’t ring. We have to be better than that. It has to be more than about people arriving safely at 5pm, we have to get them in a healthy state to 65 years of age.

Masks are the answer not the problem

I’m delighted that a focus in recent years has been on minimising the harm done to workers through breathing in harmful substances. Years ago people would walk round construction sites with their face mask on the forehead and it was hard to encourage them to wear it properly. That’s something we’ve seen on a wider scale in these Covid times.

Face fit testing is now a legal requirement for all employees who are required to wear a close or tight fitting mask while at work. The HSE guidelines state you should wear respiratory protective equipment which is adequate for the hazards you are coming into contact with, and suitable for the wearer.  Face fit testing is about providing the right mask for the type of hazard that a person will be exposed to and then fitting the mask to the worker.

This is PPE; equipment that is personalised and protective, to save people’s lungs from damage.

If the face fits…

No two people have the same shaped face or head, so one size can’t fit all if it is to be effective.

To face fit, our client who (if male, has to be clean shaven) wears a mask that they have brought with them as the mask they use to protect them from the environment in which they work. We then put a hood, that looks like beekeeper’s headgear, over their head and nebulise a mist inside it. We then ask them to move around to check no gaps are being created around the mask’s seal with the face.

We have a little trick to bring home the importance and relevance of the test that gives our client that vital Eureka! moment when they realise just how much or little protection their mask is giving them. In that simple way we can correct their mask size and wearing of it to change behaviour.

It’s one of the reasons we don’t like going to others’ sites, because we need to control the test and we need them to experience that big reveal. We have more than 100 companies on our books and we set days aside specifically for this vital face fit testing service. Our team has taken and passed the industry recognised exam and practical assessment for Face Fit Testing and are Fit2Fit Accredited.

Our job here is to dispel people’s worry about whether they are adequately protected or not, to be able to relax knowing that they are safe. In other words, to just breathe!

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