Face Fit testing; Types & Legal requirements

What is Face Fit testing?

A face fit test is a simple test which checks whether a person’s mask (Respiratory Protective Equipment – RPE) fits their face shape and size. Face fit testing helps protect the wearer from airborne hazards by ensuring that the RPE selected is suitable for the wearer.

As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face piece will fit everyone.

Face fit testing legal requirement

Legally, face fit testing is a requirement of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, the Control of Lead at Work Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations.  These regulations state that PPE must be “suitable” for its purpose – in this case it should protect the wearer from the airborne hazard.

It is also generally recommended as part of the safe system of work (SSOW), to periodically test RPE as good practice. On completion of the Face Fit Test; the certification awarded is valid for 3 years (unless otherwise stated by your employer).

Types of Face fit testing

There are two types of fit test – Qualitative and Quantitative.

  • Qualitative – Breakdown of how qualitative test works:
  1. Used only for disposable and half face masks.
  2. The individual wears a hood over the head and shoulders and the tester sprays a bitter solution into the hood.
  3. The wearer carries out a series of exercises, such as turning the head from side to side.
  4. If the individual can taste the solution; there is a break in the mask’s seal.
  • Quantitative – How the quantitative fit test works:
  1. Used for all tight fitting respirators, including Full Face Masks.
  2. The mask is attached to a particle counting machine (a Portacount).
  3. The machine detects whether airborne particles are passing into the mask via a break in the seal.
  4. At the end of the test the machine will give a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

When should we carry out face fit testing

Ideally, face fit testing should be carried out at mask selection stage, so that employers can ensure the correct mask models and sizes can be purchased.  Repeat face fit testing should also be carried out on a regular basis (typically every one, two or three years depending on risk) or if the wearer loses or gains weight, has significant dental work, or gains scars, moles or other facial features where the mask seal meets the face.

Read Also: PAT Testing (Portable appliance testing) – All you need to know

Pre – Face fit test exercise

Attendees must be clean shaven. The fit test will not be carried out if there is any hair growth between the skin and the face piece sealing surface e.g. Stubble beard growth, beard, mustache, as this will affect the seal and intended level of protection.

Who needs face fit testing

It is extremely important for those that work in environments that may result in harmful substances contaminating the air in the form of dust, mist, vapour, gas or fumes.  The following work activities are an example:

  • Cutting materials such as wood or stone
  • Using products containing volatile solvents
  • Handling a dusty powder
  • Welding stainless steel

Read Also: 11 Things to check during fire extinguisher testing

When must you carry out a new face fit exercise?

A new Face Fit Test should be carried out if you:

  • Get any different type of RPE mask which requires a different test or is not similar to the mask used in your previous test
  • Have any kind of dental or facial surgery which may affect the seal of the mask
  • If you break your nose/jaw
  • Gain or lose a significant amount of weight which may make the mask too loose/tight
  • Feel that your mask is no long working to the same level/is compromised in some way

Read Also: Importance of hydrostatic testing in fire extinguisher cylinders maintenance


By Ubong Edet

A passionate Health and Safety professional with a good level of field experience and relevant certifications including NEBOSH, OSHA, ISO, etc certifications. An Health and Safety activist who believes in the growth and continual improvement of the profession. He is going all out to create awareness and safe precious lives.

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