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What is Face Fit Testing?

Updated: Apr 19


a face fit construction mask

Face fit testing is a process that involves making sure a mask or face piece fits the wearer’s face with a good seal and tight fit. This increases the protection of the wearer as the face fit testing will aim to achieve continuous contact with the skin and the mask’s seal.


 

In this Article:



 

What is Face Fit Testing?


Everyone’s face shape is slightly different and so there is no one face mask fits all. Instead, each person who is required to wear a face mask at work must receive face fit testing to ensure they are protected at work as an inadequate fitting face mask will severely reduce their protection and may even lead to ill health.


The face fit testing kit will prevent exposure for the wearers but the test will need to be redone if there are any changes to the face such as weight loss or dental work to ensure the face mask is always most effective. The face fit testing also verifies that the wearer is capable of putting the face mask on correctly.


 

How Long Does Face Fit Testing Last?


Having a face fit tested respirator that matches the wearer’s facial features doesn't have a universally fixed duration in terms of its validity. The length of time a face fit test remains valid can depend on various factors, these include:


  • Regulatory Standards

  • Changes in Facial Structure

  • Type of Respirator

  • Workplace Conditions


However it is considered good practice under the guidance of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to carry out an annual refresh of your face fit testing.



construction worker with mask
 

Types of Face Fit Testing



There are two different types of face fit testing depending on the type of mask the wearer uses. You can search online for “face fit testing near me” to find a local professional service that will help you determine which face mask is most effective for your face shape.


Qualitative Face Fit Testing


The qualitative face fit testing procedure takes around 20 minutes and can only be used on half mask respirators and disposable masks and requires a straightforward taste test to check if the masks fit the face and seal perfectly.


The test requires the mask wearer to wear the mask and a hood over the head and shoulders before the tester sprays a bitter solution into the hood. The tester will then perform a series of exercises such as turning the head to each side, up and down. If the wearer can’t taste the bitter solution then the mask fits but if they can taste it then the mask doesn’t fit.


Quantitative Face Fit Testing


The quantitative face fit test also takes around 20 minutes and there are various different tests available to use. It can be performed on any type of mask such as disposable half masks, re-usable half masks, full mask respirators and gas masks.


The Portacount machine is the most common test in which the wearer puts on the mask which is then attached to this machine to effectively detect if any airborne particles are travelling through the seal into the mask. The machine will pass or fail the mask depending on the outcome of the particles that passed through the seal.


The face fit testing kits can be carried out by people who are fully trained and competent to ensure all employees receive a professional service to HSE standard. A record of the correct make, model and size of face mask for each employee should be kept and be available for inspection if necessary.


The face fit testing cost varies depending on how many employees require the test, which type of face fit test your business requires and if your employees wear more than one type of mask.


 

Where Is Face Fit Testing Training Available?


If your workforce is required to wear face masks or you simply want to become a face fit tester, there is a face fit testing course available. This training will provide you with all the necessary information, techniques and support to ensure participants are able to perform effective face fit tests on colleagues.


Here are some reputable Face Fit Training Facilities:



The training will teach people how to correctly perform a face fit test and will include:


  • The importance of face fit testing

  • Essential checks and correct application of facemasks

  • Responsibilities of employers and fit testers

  • Qualitative face fit testing

  • Theory and practical assessments

Once you have completed the training course, you will receive a face fit testing certificate but you will not be provided with the equipment to carry out these tests. Your company or business department will have to purchase the 3m face fit testing kits for tests that will be performed on their premises.


 

Is Face Fit Testing A Legal Requirement?


It is a legal requirement to receive 3m face fit testing if your workplace requires face masks or Respiratory Protection Equipment to be worn. This comes from the legislation in COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), CLaW (Control of Lead at Work), CAR (Control of Asbestos Regulations) and the Ionising Radiation Regulations which states that face fit testing must be performed during the initial process of selecting a mask and the mask must be effective against hazards and suitable for the mask wearer.


This ensures that only the most effective masks for each employee are chosen. If more than one mask is worn by employees then a face fit test must be performed on each mask to ensure all masks are tight fitting. Employers must also make sure that the exact make, model and size of the face mask which was successful in the test is provided for each employee.


The protective equipment must suitably fit the face of the wearer to protect them from exposure to any harmful substances in the air supply.


a man wearing a face fit mask sanding wood
 

Conclusion


The face fit testing is an essential procedure required by law to ensure the protection of employees against harmful airborne hazards in the workplace. There are two different types of testing in which the qualitative face fit testing kit is suitable. Disposable, half face masks and the quantitative testing is available for all types of masks including full mask respirators.


Taking part in a face fit testing training course is a good option for many businesses, if the workplace requires regular testing to effectively test employees mask fittings and ensure everyone is always safe and protected from hazards like asbestos exposure. Alternatively you can book a half or full day course for professional external contractors to perform the tests on your premises.


 

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