Yes, face fit testing is a legal requirement for anyone who wears a tight (or close) fitting mask for work.

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What is the requirement ?

The supporting guidance for COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), CLaW (Control of Lead at Work), CAR (Control of Asbestos Regulations) and the Ionising Radiation Regulations, stipulate that fit testing should be carried out as part of the initial mask selection process.  This ensures that inadequately fitting face pieces are not selected for use.

Which masks need to be tested ?

Face fit testing is required for all of the following types of masks:

  • Disposable half masks
  • Re-usable filter or cartridge half masks
  • Powered respirators
  • Full face filter or cartridge masks
  • Escape set masks
  • Full breathing apparatus masks

What does the test involve ?

There are two types of test.

The qualitative test can only be carried out on half masks.  The test takes around 20 minutes and involves wearing a hood over the head and shoulders.  The tester sprays a bitter tasting solution into the hood whilst the delegate carries out a series of exercises, i.e. turning head from side to side.  If the wearer can taste the solution then the mask does not fit correctly.

The quantitative test can be carried out on any type of mask.  There are several different methods for this test.  The most common method involves attaching the mask to a machine (a Portacount), which can detect whether airborne particles are passing into the mask through the seal.  Again the test takes around 20 minutes and at the end of the test the machine gives a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

How often should a fit test be carried out ?

The test should be carried out ‘regularly’ or if the wearer:

  • gains or loses weight,
  • undergoes significant dental work, or
  • develops facial changes, i.e. scarring, moles etc. in the faceseal area.

Some companies have a policy of retesting every one, two or three years (depending on level of risk).

Who can carry out a face fit test ?

A competent person should carry out a face fit test.  Competency can be proven by accreditation to the BSIF Fit2Fit Fit Testers Accreditation Scheme, however this is not compulsory.  Manufacturers of fit test equipment may also provide competency training and evaluation and proof of these may be sufficient to prove competency.

Record keeping

A record should be kept of the test which should clearly state the mask make, model and size of the mask tested.

Records should be valid (up to date) and always available for inspection if required.