When do you need a (repeat) face fit test?...
So, when do you need a face fit test?…. or, almost as equally importantly, a repeat face fit test?
As you’ll know, face fit testing is a mandatory requirement as prescribed by HSE CoSHH Regulations ACoP L5 and associated guidance documents that support the relevant statutory provisions. It is an integral part of mask selection when implementing an RPE program.
Close fitting RPE relies on creating a seal to the face, so as the wearer inhales, air rushes in via the path of least resistance, i.e., (hopefully) through the filter membrane or filter cartridges, if it doesn't seal, it doesn't protect.
All masks don’t fit all faces and so it is essential that a face fit test is used to identify ill-fitting RPE, subsequently, and through the process of elimination, we identify masks that do fit and protect the wearer.
Much like the MOT on a motor vehicle, a face fit test is very much a “point in time” reference. Upon successful completion of a face fit test, what we have proven is that the mask, at that point in time, on that face, seals to the wearers face; if there is any variance on these factors, the mask may not fit and protect. So, it stands to reason that if any of these variables change, a repeat face fit test would be appropriate.
It is also crucial that the wearer is trained on consistent donning & doffing and how to undertake a pre use fit check, if it is not worn correctly and consistently, again, it cannot protect.
The fit test is specific to the exact mask in use; the exact make, model, size and specification. Therefore, if a different mask (different manufacturer, size, model, specification…) is brought into use, it must again be face fit tested. It’s therefore worth considering consistency of supply going forward too.
Another variable could be the face, below are examples of how the face could change...
· Purely and simply, the ageing process, the face changes as we age!
· Significant weight loss or weight gain, as a guide a 10% fluctuation (weight loss usually has a more significantly impact than weight gain).
· Facial cosmetic surgery.
· Significant dental work.
· Facial trauma or disfigurement such as a broken nose, jaw, eye socket or cheek bone.
· Dermal inserts or piercings.
· The development of moles, tumours, cysts or facial scarring.
In short, if there are any significant changes to the face on or around the seal of the mask, a repeat face fit tests would be prudent. Please also relay this information to the RPE wearer as a trigger to identify repeat testing.
It is possible that head / face mounted PPE or eyewear could compromise the performance of the Mask, similarly the mask could compromise the performance of the eyewear / PPE. It is therefore prudent that where additional PPE or eyewear is required or introduced (Prescription Glasses, Goggles, Safety Glasses...) that the initial face fit test considers this. Namely, the test must be performed with the eyewear and mask in its usable position. It stands to reason that if PPE or eyewear is introduced following the initial test, that a subsequent test with the new or additional PPE / eyewear is undertaken.
So with all of the above in mind, It would surely be prudent to routinely re-test as a matter of good practice right? “Yes”, we hear you say… we would agree too!
The BSIF Fit2Fit Scheme suggest that it would be good practice to test at no longer than 2 year intervals, the HSE have a close working relationship with the fit2fit scheme so that’s good enough for me too! There is a but however, certain higher risk sectors have always elected to test at 12 month intervals, some employers tighten this further and elect for 6 month intervals!
Take a common sense approach folks, look at it from a risk point of view, the greater the risk, the more frequent the testing would be my advice.
In summary, a face fit test is not a one-off event, it’s part of a continual process to ensure that RPE maintains effective going forward.
Take care and do not hesitate to get in touch for advice, guidance, testing, training, RPE supply or just the benefit of an opinion!