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importance of having a proper face fit test

Why is it important to have a face fit test?

It is important to have a ‘Face Fit’ test as this ensures you and your team are properly protected from any hazardous materials on site. Increasing awareness of the damaging impacts of exposure to dust particles on construction sites highlights the importance of not just wearing a mask but wearing a properly fitted mask. Individual mask fittings should be carried out by an accredited Face2Fit fitter to ensure they are airtight for maximum protection. 

The HSE has started the ‘Dust Kills’ campaign, which pushes for company owners to be aware of the impacts of not using respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and their duty of care to construction workers on-site. Face masks are one of the first lines of defence when carrying out any construction work that will create some form of dust which could be inhaled.

Why is it important to wear a mask?

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is designed to protect the wearer from exposure to hazardous airborne particles such as dust, fumes, gas and vapour. Although some of these hazards are invisible, they can cause chronic lung diseases and potentially lead to death in serious circumstances later on in life.

This should make face masks essential for all construction workers to provide protection when carrying out tasks, such as drilling, sanding, grinding, dry sweeping and handling dusty powders. Currently, it is only essential when working with hazardous materials like asbestos.

Recent statistics have shown that the number of construction workers suffering from occupational-related illnesses, such as chronic lung disease or cancer, from exposure to materials such as dust has risen considerably.

Fitting a face mask?

Unlike the ‘one size fits all’ face mask, tight-fitting masks are legally required under COSHH to be individually fitted by an accredited fitter. It also should be noted that anyone wearing tight-fitting masks must be cleanly shaven as the face piece or mask relies on a seal between the skin and mask. These should also be checked at regular intervals so it can be adjusted if there have been any changes.

What is a face fit test?

A face fit test is the means by which face pieces or masks are fitted to the user, and the integrity of the seal is checked to ensure it is airtight. This can be done in 2 different ways, ‘Qualitative’, which is subjective and ‘Quantitative’, which is measurable.

Qualitative face fitting relies on the individual sense of taste to tell if the air is getting in. The mask is fitted to the user and covered with a hood, a strong tasting solution is then sprayed into the space. If the user can taste the solution, the mask is not airtight.

Quantitative is a measurable method using particle counting. This is where the individual wears a mask or face piece fitted with a particle counter. They then carry out a range of movements that simulate working while the machine measures the number of particles within the mask, which will tell if it is properly sealed.

Most accredited suppliers will have their own facilities to carry out fittings or will offer day rates where they come to a preferred site and fit masks for individuals or teams. Some suppliers will also be able to provide you with a range of masks, so you don’t have to source this separately, making it a hassle-free experience.

Nobody’s health should be compromised and especially not when such simple actions as getting properly fitted masks can provide such invaluable protection. There needs to be more duty of care for our construction workers on-site as they are exposed on a regular basis to what feels like harmless materials now but could have detrimental effects later on.

More information and guidance about face fit testing can be found in the HSE Guidance on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) fit testing INDG479 .

How to book a face fit test

To ensure that you or your team are protected, book your face fit test HERE. For more information, you can contact one of the team.