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Does your face fit?

Many professionals within the construction industry are waking up to the risks posed by airborne dust particles, yet there are many whose awareness of the legal requirements remains worryingly limited. Everybody jumps at the very hint of asbestos fibres, yet attitudes remain blasé toward other harmful substances, such as silica and wood dust which can cause serious health problems. If you lose a limb or break a bone people tend to take notice, but if the hazard is hidden then ignorance tends to be bliss for many companies. Burying our heads in the sand is not the answer, as eventually we will all suffocate. The HSE has now named silica dust as an issue to which Fee for Intervention is applicable!

It is the start of a New Year and they say, “Out with the old and in with the new.” If this is to be proven correct and to ensure that your company’s face fits within health and safety and that of your employees, it is time to start dispensing with the old attitudes of “I have been doing this for twenty years and never had to do training for this before”.

This is particularly pertinent when referring to respiratory protective equipment (RPE) as a last resort of controlling exposure to airborne particles; in particular, face masks, more commonly known as full / half masks. Personal protective equipment is like Ronseal – it does exactly what it says on the tin – it is “personal” and as we are only too aware, we are all individuals. This means different face shapes and sizes. To ensure the correct fit, training must be given on the correct selection, maintenance and care of face masks otherwise known as “face” fit training.

Employers should ensure that the selected face piece (tight and loose-fitting types) is of the right size and can correctly fit each wearer. For a tight-fitting face piece the initial selection should include face fit testing to ensure the wearer has the correct device. Employers must ensure that whoever carries out the face fit testing is competent to do so in accordance with the regulations.

By embracing health and safety and dispensing with old attitudes we can ensure that all of our faces fit by meeting with minimum legal compliance. ProAktive can provide this training both on and off site to ensure the minimum amount of disruption to production and therefore freeing you to do what you do best!

By Stephen Woolf

ProAktive Risk Adviser

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