Respirator Face Fit Testing

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20 Dec 2011

Face fit testing is primarily required under the Control of Substances Hazardous to
Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Where employers provide employees with respiratory protective equipment (RPE),
employers must ensure that the RPE is suitable for its intended use and face fit tested
to ensure the individual wearing the RPE is adequately protected.

One of the most common construction activities where fit testing of RPE is required is
for the cutting of concrete products. The problem here is with the generation of dusts
that contain respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Dust is classed as respirable where is
measures less than 5 microns in diameter which enables it to pass through the bodies
natural defenses e.g. hair and mucous to penetrate deep into the lungs where gas
exchange occurs and causes irreparable damage.

This damage is the generation of scar tissue caused by inflammation of lung tissue. As
the inflammation heals, scar tissue develops, lung capacity is reduced and air intake
effected. This is also known as fibrosis of the lungs and can continue after the
inflammation has calmed down.


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requires that wet cutting equipment and RPE
are used together when cutting concrete products. There are two ways of conducting
face fit testing:

• Qualitative – TasteTest
• Quantitative-­ Portacount

Qualitative testing produces a simple pass or fail result based on the person being able
to taste an aerosol solution pumped into a hood worn over the head.

Quantitative testing uses the “Portacount” computer system that produces a fit factor
score that indicates a pass or fail based on reaching a minimum fit factor score.

Qualitative fit testing is cheap and relatively quick to do (approx 30mins per person).

Once an item of RPE has achieved a pass under testing, the individual must wear the
same make and model mask thereafter as each test is specific to the RPE. Where a
different mask is worn, a new face fit test must be carried out. For persons who
continue to wear the RPE that passed the test it is recommended that re-tests are
carried out on an annual basis.

Qualitative face fit testing is now provided by JNC Safety Services Ltd at £45 per
person which includes the provision of one mask if required.

Please contact Steve Westlake on 07973 912 096 for enquiries regarding face fit