If you wear a tight fitting respirator mask it is essential that you are fit tested to confirm that the facepiece fits you correctly and is giving you the protection you need. Your respirator mask cannot protect you if it leaks and the major cause of leaks is a poor fitting mask. This is the reason why face fit testing for tight fitting respiratory protection (RPE) is a legal requirement?
‘Research in the UK has shown that up to half of the RPE currently in use does not provide the wearer with the level of protection expected. One of the major reasons for this is that it simply does not fit.’ Alan Murray, chief executive of the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF)
People come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so it is unlikely that one particular type or size of respiratory protective equipment RPE will fit everyone so fit testing is conducted to ensure that respirator selected is suitable for the wearer.
The best time to do fit testing is when you are choosing your RPE this will allow you to can check it will provide you with an adequate fit before purchasing. You need to make sure that the make, model, type and size of this facepiece is the same as the one you then wear on a daily basis. If you need to wear more than one style of mask then you need to be fit tested on each make and model.
This is also a good time to get guidance on the best respirator/filter combination to protect you from the hazards you face during your day to day working environment. Different environments require different levels of protection and there is a bewildering range of filters, so getting advice is key in ensuing you are adequately protected.
RPE fit testing should be conducted by a competent person - you should take steps to ensure that person who carries out the fit test is appropriately trained, qualified and experienced, and is provided with appropriate information to undertake each particular task. One way of ensuring your fit tester is competent is via the Fit2Fit accreditation scheme, manged by the The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF), the only accredited scheme recognised by the HSE.