Face Fit Testing Information & Resources Page

Welcome to our face fit testing information & resources page, where you can find useful links to external websites such as the HSE, as well as informative documents which focus on Face Fit Testing.

If you are considering RPE with a tight-fitting facepiece, you should make sure that each wearer undergoes a fit test. Remember, people come in different shapes and sizes, so facial differences will mean that one kind of RPE is unlikely to fit all. The differences are even more significant between men, women, and people of different ethnicity. If the RPE does not fit, it will not protect the wearer. Our face fit testing information will provide further guidance.

Face fit testing is a method of checking that a tight-fitting facepiece matches the wearer’s facial features and seals adequately to their face. It will also help to identify unsuitable facepieces that should not be used.

Remember that tight-fitting RPE will only provide effective protection if the wearer is clean shaven, so they should also be clean shaven when fit tested.

There are two types of fit test – Qualitative & Quantitative. The type of fit test which should be employed is dependent on the face piece being tested. As a rule, Filtering Face Pieces (FFP) and Half Masks can be tested using a Qualitative method and all other tight fitting face pieces must be tested with a Quantitative test method. Face Fit Testing is conducted in accordance with HSE  document INDG 479.

Read more face fit testing information below and see our frequently asked questions section at the bottom.

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    Face Fit Testing Information – Frequently Asked Questions

    Our face fit testing information tries to answer your questions. Please find below some of the questions that we are regularly asked, if you have a question ask us and we will be happy to answer it and add it to the list.

    Do I have to be clean shaven to wear a mask?
    If your face piece is tight fitting i.e. a mask which relies on forming a seal against the users face e.g. a disposable half mask respirator, a re-useable half mask, full face mask etc. then you have to be clean shaven to allow a good contact between the seal of the mask and the users face (see HSE document RR1052).

    How do you conduct a face fit test?
    There are 2 types of face fit testing – qualitative and quantitative. Both methods are conducted differently. The qualitative face fit test is a taste test. A strong-tasting agent is sprayed into a hood worn over the test subject’s head. This test method uses bitter solution (Bitrex) there is also a sweet solution for the small percentage of people who cannot taste Bitrex. The quantitative face fit test involves the candidate wearing a respirator of the make, model and size that they are to use in the workplace. The respirator is connected to a test machine that counts the particulate in the test room and the particulate within the respirator and calculates, from this information, a fit-factor.

    How long does a face fit test certificate last?
    BSIF recommend a re-test at least every 2 years. However, if the mask is being used as the primary means of protection then annual testing should be conducted.

    Can I make my staff shave?
    No, however if they need to wear a tight fitting mask as part of their work then they need to be clean shaven. If they choose not to shave then you cannot put them in to a hazardous environment. Therefore, they won’t be able to do their job. It is down to management to deal with this issue, but if they are not clean shaven then they cannot wear a tight fitting mask.

    What if they can’t shave?
    There are other forms of RPE available which do not rely on forming a seal against the users face i.e. powered hoods etc.

    How do we define clean shaven?
    According to HSE’s guidelines, staff members should shave within 8 hours of the shift starting.

    Can I have a moustache or goatee beard?
    Yes, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the seal of the mask. However you must be clean shaven in the area of the seal for us to conduct the face fit test. If you have a beard then your main option is something like a powered hood which does not require a face fit test.

    What mask and filter do I need?
    By law, RPE must be selected by competent people. It is the responsibility of the employer to select the right mask and filter combination – not the fit testers. We do offer RPE training which is aimed at workers and management involved in the selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

    How often do we have to do a face fit test?
    Most occupations don’t have a specified time limit before another test is required. However in line with current legislation we recommend that a face fit test is carried out when there are changes in RPE, PPE, significant weight fluctuations in staff members, facial injuries, major dental work etc. and you must consider the ageing process fit2fit recommend that fit testing should be conducted at least every 2 years.

    How long does a face fit test take?
    Conducted properly a face fit test should take approx. 20 minutes.

    Why is your face fit train the tester course a full day?
    Some training providers offer a half day train the tester course but ours is a full day, the reason for this is simple;

    RPE fit testing should be conducted by a competent person. To be competent the person should have adequate knowledge, and have received adequate instruction and training in the following areas:

    • selection of adequate and suitable RPE;
    • examination of RPE and the ability to identify poorly maintained face pieces;
    • ability to correctly fit a face piece and perform pre-use wearer-seal checks;
    • ability to recognise a poorly fitting face piece;
    • awareness of external factors that may affect the fit of the face piece or the fit test result;
    • the purpose and applicability of fit testing; the differences between, and the appropriate use of, QNFT and QLFT methods;
    • the purpose of the fit test exercises;
    • preparation of face pieces for fit testing;
    • how to carry out diagnostic checks on the face piece and the fit test equipment;
    • capabilities and limitations of the fit test equipment;
    • how to perform a correct fit test with the chosen method;
    • awareness and knowledge of how to prevent and correct problems during fit testing;
    • interpretation of fit test results;
    • an understanding of the differences between fit factor, workplace protection factor (WPF),† assigned protection factor and nominal protection factor  (NPF)‡; and HSE ACOPs and guidance that deal with fit testing of RPE.

    The above is an extract from HSE document INDG 479, this is what the HSE require from a fit tester and it is simply not possible to cover all of these 16 points on a half day course.

    We hope you have found our face fit testing information and resource page helpful. If you do have any further queries please contact us.

    Face Fit Train the Tester

    If you provide respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to your employees, then it is essential that you have documentary evidence to show the RPE fits the wearer. By subjecting each wearer to a face-fit test you can be sure that your organisation is fulfilling the requirements laid out in the Health & Safety Executives (HSE) document INDG 479.

    RPE fit testing should be conducted by a competent person. Competence can be demonstrated through achieving accreditation under the ‘Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme’. This Scheme has been developed by the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) together with industry stakeholders and is supported by HSE. The scheme is not compulsory and employers are free to take other action to comply with the law.

    Organisations involved in Face Fit Testing

    The Health & Safety Executive are responsible for regulations and enforcement of these in the UK.

    There are also other organisations who are actively involved in promoting face fit testing and RPE in the UK but also across the rest of the World.

    British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF)

    The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) is the UK’s leading trade body within the safety industry. We have members including manufacturers, distributors, test houses, certification bodies, safety professionals and service providers.

    Our aim is to provide support and guidance on a wide range of occupational safety issues. Click on the top menu to find out more about our members’ products and services as well as the latest BSIF news, events and initiatives.

    Fit2Fit Accreditation Scheme

    Are you sure that the RPE you provide to your employees fits them properly? Are you sure the face fit test was carried out competently? You ought to be, because the health of your employees could be at serious risk.

    Recent research indicates that up to 50% of all RPE used does not offer the wearer the level of protection assumed and one of the major reasons is that it simply does not fit! Yet, under the regulations RPE must be correctly selected and this includes, for many types of RPE, a face piece Fit Test conducted by a competent person. So how can you be sure the person conducting the fit test is competent?

    In view of these major concerns the British Safety Industry Federation, along with the HSE and other industry stakeholders have developed a competency scheme for Fit Test Providers. The Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme is designed to confirm the competency of any person performing face piece fit testing.

    The International Society for Respiratory Protection  (ISRP)

    The International Society for Respiratory Protection – ISRP, is a non-profit organisation whose charter is to provide an educational and informational service to all individuals involved in respiratory protection.

    The Society regularly convenes Regional and International Conferences at various locations around the world.

    The main purpose of ISRP is to bring together occupational health and safety professionals in the field of respiratory protection. Members share their opinions, disclose their research findings, and share ideas through the Society.

    The face fit testing information that we have put together on this page is designed to be as informative on the subject as possible. Should you not find the answer to your questions feel free to contact us.

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