RPE Selection

Respiratory Protective Equipment Training

RPE Selection

Correct RPE selection is vital to ensure the health & safety of your employees.

This week on site whilst conducting a non licensed asbestos training course I was presented with reusable half face masks fitted with ABEK gas/vapour filters by the trainees and informed that this is what they had been issued with and what they intended to use.

Asbestos is a particle and a known carcinogen and therefore requires a P3 particle filter.

RPE selection should be conducted by a competent person:

“Anybody selecting, using or maintaining RPE should be competent. You should be able to demonstrate this by reference to records of appropriate training” Source HSG 53.

I think it is safe to say that the person who selected the mask and filters fell short of being a competent person.

The law requires:

You must select RPE that is adequate and suitable to ensure the wearer is protected, this means:

Adequate – It is right for the hazard and reduces exposure to the level required to protect the wearer’s health.

Suitable – It is right for the wearer, task and environment, such that the wearer can work freely and without additional risks due to the RPE.

To ensure that the RPE selected will protect the wearer, you will need a basic understanding of:

  • the hazardous substance and the amount in the air (exposure);
  • the form of the substance in the air (eg gas, particle, vapour);
  • the type of work being carried out;
  • any specific wearer requirements, such as other PPE or a need for spectacles.

I had to explain that the RPE that had been selected would offer them no protection whatsoever and when working with asbestos that this is dangerous and also stupid. The RPE had apparently been selected and issued by the stores person, this demonstrates perfectly that this company does not have an effective RPE programme in place.

All work with asbestos should be planned by a competent person, in HSG 210 Asbestos Essentials it quite clearly tells you what RPE is required to undertake non licensed asbestos work.

Another issue was facial hair, 3 of the trainees had extremely fine beards! The question was asked “how do you intend to wear a tight fitting mask with your facial hair” the answer “why does that matter”.

In order for a tight fitting mask to get an adequate seal the wearer must be clean shaven in the area that the mask seals to the face (source HSG53).

No face fit testing, no maintenance checks have ever been done on the masks or have they been trained in the checking and fitting of the mask.

So they intended to work with asbestos with RPE that doesn’t offer any form of protection, may be faulty due to lack of maintenance checks, probably won’t fit or will not seal properly due to facial hair.

I would suggest that this is not the best idea when working with asbestos which is currently responsible for about 5000 deaths a year.

This unfortunately is not an isolated incident this is what our trainers find regularly on site.

We can help you with your RPE training, face fit testing and asbestos training needs.


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