To improve the standards of face fit testing and to add clarity as to what is required of face fit testers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) Fit2Fit Scheme have recently issued industry updates...
Where has OC282/28 gone and what is INDG479?
Issued in 2012 with an expected review date of 2022, OC282/28 "Fit Testing of RPE" has been under review for a couple of years and was withdrawn on the 10th April 2018.
It has been replaced with Industry Guidance INDG479 which it is very matter of fact when it comes as to "what" is expected in regards to compliance with the relevant statutory provisions. It covers information on accepted face fit test methods, competence, certification and what can be expected to be achieved from a face fit test.
In putting together INDG479, the HSE liaised heavily with the BSIF Fit2Fit scheme who have released a series of 3 "Companions" surrounding the three accepted methods of face fit Testing; namely Quantitative Face Fit Testing (the "Taste Test") and Quantitative Face Fit Testing (both CNP & APC (aka "Portacount")).
These companions are to support INDG479, they are very much geared up as to "how" to preform a face fit test, offering concise and workable practical guidance for face fit testers throughout the fit testing procedure.
So, what's changed from OC282/28 to INDG479?
In reality, not a huge amount if you were already undertaking face fit tests in line with current best practice. There are some technical changes with regards to pass parameters on FFP2 devices using the Quantitative method and further clarity on Qualitative face fit tests...
Clarification has been ofred around the recommended volume & dimensions of fit test hoods, however the more reputable brands already meet this criteria.
The period of time that a RPE wearer should refrain from eating / drinking / smoking has been increased from 15 minutes to 30 however, most competent fit testers would have already insisted on this anyway.
Clarification has been offered on recording the specific details of other PPE worn by the mask wearer (such as eye wear) should be noted on the certificate.
An increased empasis has been placed on the competence of face fit testers; where the standard of face fit testing is poor, we still have workers wearing ill fitting RPE, a robust test procedure shoudl identify these unsuitable devices. Using fit2fit approved face fit testers or attending fit2fit approved training is a very good starting point with respect to "competence".
Further clarification on the effects of facial hair (see RR1052) has been offered but perhaps most significantly, the fit2fit accreditation scheme has recommended that face fit tests should be repeated at intervals of no longer than two years.
This is not to say that face fit tests should be diarised on a two year cycle; should the RPE change (type, make, model, spec, size..) then a re test would be required. Should other PPE be issued that could effect the performance of the "mask", then again another re test should be required. The final variable that could trigger a re test is a change is the wearers face, this could be ageing, weight loss / gain, facial disfigurement / injury / surgery, scars, moles, piercings....
Please note, that it may be appropriate for higher risk sectors to have repeat tests at closer intervals regardless of the above variables as a proportionate and responsible approach to protecting worker health and safety.
In closing, the above documents are a must read any face fit testers or those with responsibilities for managing RPE; furthermore RPE should not be relied upon and all measures should be taken to remove the requirement to rely on RPE. With this advice and an increased knowledge & respect for airborne hazards amongst workers, we will be able to slow and subsequently reverse the alarming trend of work related respiratory disease claiming 12,000 lives per year in the UK alone.