For those of us working in the trade, our first and largest obligation isn’t towards our clients or our bank account, it’s to those people who work for us. Our employees, whether they’re contractors or full-time, are putting their lives in danger and it’s our legal and moral obligation to make sure that they’ve got the right kit to keep them protected at work.
Although falling debris and unsecured floors pose significant threats to safety, it’s airborne hazards which pose the biggest threat – after all, we all know the effect of asbestos on the body.
It’s why respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is a requirement for all sites where the threat of airborne hazards is present. Amazingly though, research has found that around 50% of RPE doesn’t offer the levels of protection that are assumed. The main reason for that? They’re simply not being fitted correctly.
It’s why ‘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.
Every wearer of tight-fitting or close-fitting facepieces requires a face test for each mask that they wear. ‘Close-fitting’ facepieces include: full breathing apparatus masks (including positive pressure), escape set masks, re-usable half masks, disposable half masks and powered respirators.
Face fit testing can be done in two ways: qualitative and quantitative. Both are valid and approved methods of testing, and both take roughly 20 minutes to complete.
Join us as we explore the differences:
Qualitative Face Fit Testing
Qualitative face fit testing is suitable for both disposable and re-usable half masks. Effectively a sensitivity test, the test routine goes as follows:
- The wearer dons the face mask
- A test hood is placed on the wearers head
- An extremely bitter test agent is then sprayed into the hood
- The wearer is asked to carry out a number of tasks like speaking and moving their head
If at any time the wearer can taste or smell the agent then the test has been failed.
Quantitative Face Fit Testing
Suitable for all masks, quantitative face fit testing can take many forms, though the most common is known as ‘particle counting’ using a machine called a TSI Portacount.
This test involves the TSI Portacount counting the number of dust particles in the ambient air and then counting them against the number found inside the mask via a tube which runs to the interior of the mask.
Much like qualitative testing, the wearer is then asked to perform a series of exercises designed to simulate common movements and activities found on site. The machine constantly monitors the air inside the mask to determine whether particles are leaking into the mask. If particles are leaking in, the test has been failed.
Can You Do Face Fit Testing Yourself?
Face fit testing requires specialist equipment and accreditation and, as such, it cannot be completed by anyone other than an individual or organisation which has received Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation.
Thankfully, there are hundreds of testing locations up and down the country that are little more than a Google search away!