Face Fit Testing information & FAQs

According to Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) supporting the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), the Control of Lead at Work Regulations, the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Confined Space Regulations and the Ionising Radiations Regulations, tight fitting respiratory protective equipment (RPE) should be fit tested as part of the selection process to ensure it provides effective protection for individual wearers.

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE): Facial Hair and Face Masks

There are two main types of RPE - respirators and breathing apparatus. Respirators use filters to remove contaminants from the air breathed in. They can be either non-powered respirators which rely on the wearer’s breathing to draw air through the filter or powered respirators which use a motor to pass air through the filter to provide a supply of clean air. Breathing apparatus needs a supply of breathing quality air from an independent source such as an air cylinder or air compressor. Respirators and breathing apparatus divide into two primary groups:

  • Tight-fitting facepieces often referred to as masks. These are available as both non-powered and powered respirators and breathing apparatus.
  • Loose-fitting facepieces such as hoods, helmets and visors. These are only available as powered respirators or breathing apparatus and rely on enough clean air being provided to the wearer to prevent contaminants leaking in.

What is Face Fit Testing and Why is it Carried Out?

Face fit testing is required for RPE masks such as disposable half masks, reusable filter or cartridge half masks, full face filter or cartridge masks and escape set masks.

Fit testing is a method of checking that a specific model and size of a tight-fitting facepiece matches the wearer’s facial features and seals adequately to the wearer’s face. It also helps identify facepieces which may not be suitable for the wearer.

The performance of tight-fitting facepieces depends on achieving good contact between the wearer’s skin and the face seal of the facepiece. People’s faces vary significantly in shape and size so it is unlikely that one particular model or size of RPE facepiece will fit everyone. The inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer. Any reduction in protection may lead to immediate or long-term ill health and can even put the RPE wearer’s life in danger.

Is face fit testing a legal requirement?

Where respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is used as a control measure under health and safety legislation, it is vital that the selected RPE is both adequate and suitable. To ensure that the selected RPE has the potential to provide adequate protection for individual wearers, the Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) supporting the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), the Control of Lead at Work Regulations, the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Confined Spaces Regulations and the Ionising Radiations Regulations stipulate that tight-fitting RPE should be fit tested as part of the selection process.

You must be able to prove the RPE is:

  • Adequate RPE is right for the hazard and reduces exposure to the level required to protect the wearer’s health.
  • Suitable RPE is right for the wearer, task and environment, such that the wearer can work freely and without additional risks due to the RPE.

How long does it take to complete a face fit test?

Each test will take between 25 minutes to complete. One mask is classed as one test as some candidates may wear more than one style of mask.

HSE Guidance

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) stipulates that where respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is used as a control measure under health and safety legislation, it is vital that the selected RPE is both adequate and suitable. You must be able to prove that the RPE is adequate for the hazard concerned and reduces exposure to the level required to protect the wearer’s health. It must also be suitable for the wearer, task and environment concerned and allow the wearer to work freely without additional risks due to the RPE.

Further advice on the selection of RPE can be found in the HSE guidance document Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work: A Practical Guide’ (HSG53).

Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme

The HSE advises that fit testing should be conducted by a competent person and that competence can be demonstrated by accreditation under the Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme. The scheme is supported by HSE and has been developed by the British Safety Industry Federation (SCIF), together with industry stakeholders.

Sunbelt Rentals Safety & Communications specialists business not only supplies RPE such as masks but also specialises in face fit testing with several strategically located Fit2Fit accredited Respiratory Technicians deployed across the UK. These Technicians carry out face fit testing nationwide to help organisations comply with legislative and regulatory requirements regarding the use of RPE. Face fit testing can be carried out remotely at customers’ premises or Sunbelt Rentals has fully equipped testing centres in Barking and Manchester.

As well as performing face fit testing, Sunbelt Rentals also delivers a range of training courses designed to teach individuals with the knowledge and skills so they can perform face fit testing on their own staff. Training courses include Fit2Fit Accredited Quantitative Face Fit Testing, Fit2Fit Accredited Qualitative Face Fit Testing, Train the Tester courses, RPE User’s Training and more. To find out more or to book a course, please email rpe@sunbeltrentals.co.uk or call 07971 091873.

Further guidance can also be found in the HSE document Guidance on Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) Fit Testing’ (INDG479).

Different Types of Fit Testing

There are two basic types of RPE fit testing - qualitative and quantitative and each test takes around 25 minutes to complete. Qualitative fit testing (QLFT) is a pass/fail test based on the wearer’s own assessment of any leakage through the face seal region by detecting the introduction of a bitter or sweet-tasting aerosol. This method is suitable for disposable and reusable half masks but not full face masks. Even though qualitative fit testing is based on a response by the wearer of the respiratory equipment, it must still be administered by a qualified fit tester.

Quantitative fit testing (QNFT) provides a numerical measure of how well a facepiece seals against a wearer’s face known as a fit factor. Unlike qualitative methods, quantitative fit testing is suitable for full face masks, as well as disposable and reusable half masks. Examples of quantitative methods include ambient particle counting and controlled negative pressure (CNP).

Does one size mask fit all?

The performance of tight-fitting facepieces depends on achieving good contact between the wearer’s skin and the face seal of the facepiece. People’s faces vary significantly in shape and size so it is unlikely that one particular model or size of RPE facepiece will fit everyone. The inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer. Any reduction in protection may lead to immediate or long-term ill-health or can even put the RPE wearer’s life in danger.

If it is not possible for the wearer to obtain an adequate fit with the first choice of facepiece you should attempt fit testing using an alternative make, model or size of the tight-fitting facepiece.

Can someone be fit tested who has a beard or stubble?

Many masks rely on a good seal against the face so that, when the wearer breathes air in, it is drawn into the filter material where the air is cleaned. If there are any gaps around the edges of the mask, ‘dirty’ air will pass through these gaps and into the lungs.

Facial hair such as stubble and beards make it impossible to get a good seal of the mask to the face, so a fit test cannot be conducted if there is any hair growth between the wearer’s skin and the facepiece of the mask. A trimmed goatee beard and moustache inside the seal of the mask may be acceptable in some industries. If there are valid reasons for having a beard, such as religious reasons, alternative forms of RPE are available that do not require a tight fit to the face.

When is a repeat face fit test required?

Fit testing should be repeated whenever there is a change to the type of respiratory equipment use, or the size, model or material changes. Equally, repeat testing should be carried out whenever there is a change in circumstances of the wearer that could affect the fit of the RPE; for example:

  • weight loss or gain;
  • substantial dental work;
  • any facial changes (scars, moles, effects of ageing etc.) around the face seal area;
  • facial piercings;
  • Introduction or change in other head-worn personal protective equipment (PPE).

As part a RPE programme, it is good practice to have a system in place to review when a repeat fit test may be required. A-Plant Safety recommends that a suitable interval for repeat fit testing is annually as in some situations RPE is being used as a primary or sole means of control. 

How is Face fit testing conducted?

Qualitative fit testing (QLFT) is a pass/fail test based on the wearer’s subjective assessment of any leakage through the face seal region by detecting the introduction of bitter- or sweet-tasting aerosol as a test agent. QLFT methods are suitable for disposable and reusable half masks; they are not suitable for full-face masks. Although this type of test is based on subjective detection and response by the wearer of the RPE, it is important that it is administered by a fit tester competent in using this method.

Quantitative fit testing (QNFT) provides a numerical measure of how well a face piece seals against a wearer’s face; this is called a fit factor. These tests give an objective measure of face fit. QNFT methods are suitable for disposable and reusable half masks and full-face masks. Examples of QNFT methods are:

  • Ambient particle counting (APC)
  • Controlled negative pressure (CNP)

What is the difference between tight and loose-fitting facepieces?

Respirators and BA are available in a range of different styles, which can be put into two main groups:

  • Tight-fitting facepieces (often referred to as masks) - rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. These are available as both non-powered and powered respirators and BA. Examples are filtering facepieces, half and full-face masks.
  • Loose-fitting face pieces – rely on enough clean air being provided to the wearer to prevent contaminant leaking in (only available as powered respirators or BA). Examples are hoods helmets, visors, blouses and suits.

Is there certification following a successful face fit test?

A fit test report will be produced following each successful fit test. The user will receive a detailed explanation of the results.  Captured on the report will be:

  • The name of person fit tested
  • The make, model, material and size of the face piece
  • The type of filters fitted to the face piece during the fit test
  • The presence or absence of in-face piece spectacles
  • The make and model of any PPE and/or RPE accessory worn during the fit test
  • Whether the face piece used was the subject’s issued face piece, a company pool face piece or a test face piece
  • The test exercises performed during the fit test
  • The fit test method
  • For quantitative tests, the measured fit factor for each individual test exercise and the overall fit factor
  • The pass level used in the test
  • The result of the fit test in terms of a pass or fail
  • The date of the test and date of retest
  • The details of the person who performed the test, name of firm, address etc.

What is the difference between face fit testing and face fit training?

Face fit testing is process of performing a face fit test. Face fit training is a course designed to teach individuals how to perform face fit tests on their own internal staff

About Sunbelt Rentals Safety and Communications

Sunbelt Rentals Safety division are specialists in face fit testing and have many strategically located FIT2FIT accredited Respiratory Technicians deployed across the UK. Our Respirator Technicians are dedicated to the delivery of face fit testing to help companies comply with the requirements of legislation and industry regulations. Sunbelt Rentals Safety have a fully equipped testing centres in Barking and Manchester in addition we can operate remotely at your premises nationally. From RPE training to Face Fit Testing Sunbelt Rentals Safety have the knowledge and skills to provide companies a national service to comply with the requirements of legislation and industry regulations. For special and large projects, we can offer an increased testing capability providing customers multiple technicians’ using the latest testing equipment.

For special and large projects, we can offer an increased testing capability providing customers multiple technicians using the latest testing equipment. As part of our service customers are notified when their certificate has expired.

What face fit testing solutions do Sunbelt Rentals offer?

  • FIT2FIT accredited Quantitative Face Fit Testing
  • FIT2FIT accredited Qualitative Face Fit Testing
  • Qualitative Train The Tester courses
  • Quantitative Train the Tester courses
  • RPE User’s Training
  • Confined Spaces Training
  • RPE Maintenance and servicing
  • RPE Supply
  • Powered Respirators
  • Qualitative Test kits and solutions
  • Quantitative Testing equipment spares.

Need more information about face fit testing?

For further information or guidance on face fit testing, please call 07971 091873 or enquire by the link below
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