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To face fit or not to face fit – that is the question.

Face Fit Testing

To face fit or not to face fit – that is the question!

Due to the prevalence of COVID-19 and major changes to society as a whole, the topic of face masks and use in the workplace particularly, has become of primary interest. It is worth remembering that “you should only use Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) after you have taken all other reasonably practicable measures to prevent or control exposure.” (HSG 53). Any face masks provided must be suitable for intended use and used properly by trained people who are supervised. Face fit testing helps determine that the RPE is suitable and assists with training people (or confirming they have been trained) in an objective manner with appropriate records generated.

There are 5 things to consider when looking at face fit testing. A significant advantage would be to consider having the ability to perform face fit tests within your own organisation.

1. Face fit tests should be performed by a competent person. If any person is performing face fit testing they should be able to demonstrate suitable knowledge, skills, experience and qualification in that area. Due diligence should be performed on potential face fit testers. If you are trained to perform face fit tests you will have records to demonstrate this competence, assuming that the trainer is competent.

2. Any face fit testing performed will be for a specific type, size, make and model of mask. If the person changes any of these factors e.g. a new mask, then the mask must be face fit tested again. It is difficult to get hold of RPE at this present time and therefore a different mask / supplier may be used in the future. This would require a new face fit test. By having the capability to do this in-house, a new test can be performed without having to try and get a competent fitter to do the test.

3. A change in staff would also necessitate face fit testing where staff are required to wear masks. Any persons leaving or entering into service would require face fit testing. Even if a person says they have previously been fit tested and has the actual record, will it be the exact same mask and supplier as you are using and can you demonstrate it was done by a competent third party?

4. ‘Regular’ face fit testing is required even when using the same mask. This would mean repeat face fit testing for all staff using masks on a regular basis. This may cause inconvenience, time and additional cost if an external supplier is used.

5. Other factors also come into play when requiring a face fit test for staff which can include physical changes to the wearer (weight gain/loss for example), changes in working practices or regulations (highly likely due to the shifting environment regarding COVID-19), changes in technology (e.g. new masks) or changes in your COSHH and risk assessments. All of these are triggers that would most likely require you to perform a new face fit test.

When considering the case for face fit testing it is strongly advised that face masks provided (FFP and quarter / half face masks) are fit tested by competent persons. This is confirmed in extensive detail in the guidance documents provided by HSE. The ability to be able to perform the tests within your own organisation would provide you with a convenient, cost effective and flexible method for demonstrating that you have complied with the regulations and guidance. As an added bonus you will also gain the knowledge that is helpful in selecting the right type of mask – and avoid spending significant amounts of money on the wrong masks (including counterfeit)!

Stay Safe & Keep....... 2m ....... Distance

Richard Lunn BSc (Hons) PGDE DipNEBOSH Grad IOSH MIFSM

The First Principle Group Team

Contact us on 024 7688 0450 or email us



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