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Face Fit Testing

Where respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and face masks are used, it is essential that these provide adequate protection for all individual wearers. Face masks can’t protect the wearer if they leak. A major cause of leaks is poor fit – the face mask needs to fit the face to be effective.

Many masks rely on a good seal against the face so that, when air is breathed in, it is drawn into the filter material where the air is cleaned. If there are any gaps around the edges of the mask, contaminated air will pass through these gaps and into the lungs. It is therefore very important that masks are worn correctly and checked for a good fit every time.

As no two people are the same it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face piece will fit everyone. Face fit testing will ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the care medicine protective mask

How to do it

Face fit testing is a simple process which involves the individual wearing their respiratory protection whilst carrying out a number of tasks to ensure that throughout all aspects of their job, their face mask will protect them from inhaling harmful substances.

Whilst the individual completes these tasks they are sprayed with a harmless substance. If at any time throughout the process they smell or taste the substance they fail the face fit test. This simply means that the respiratory protection they are using is not protecting them and is therefore not suitable. They should be provided with an alternative and this should be tested in the same way.

If the individual completes all of the tasks and does not smell or taste the substance, they pass the test. This means their respiratory protection is suitable and can continue to be used.

Common Problems

  • Facial hair – stubble and beards – makes it difficult to get a good seal of the mask to the face making leakage of contaminated air around the edges of the mask highly likely.
  • Leaks around the nose. If the mask has a nose clip, take special care to firmly shape it to the nose.
  • Incorrect positioning of the straps. Straps should be pulled tight firmly, but not painfully. Position the upper strap over the crown of the head, above the ears, not over them. The lower strap should go round the back of the neck.
  • The edge of the mask must seal to the face. Irregularities (e.g. scarring, moles) in the area of the face seal can prevent this.
  • Long hair or sideburns can get trapped in the seal and cause leaks.
  • Seat the chin firmly in the chin cup of the mask. This can be difficult if the mask is the wrong size – try a different size or a different model.

RHheadshotIf you would like to speak to us in more detail about Face Fit Testing, please contact Rachel Hamill on 01302 341 344.

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