woman and man with respiratory masks
Focus on Fit

Face Fit Testing and Respiratory Fit

In the UK the Approved Codes of Practices (ACOPs) supporting the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAW) and the Control of Lead at Work Regulations (CLAW) require that wearers of tight fitting respirators are fit tested. Fit testing is a means of checking that a respirator facepiece matches a person's facial features and seals adequately to their face. There are several methods available and the Health and Safety Executive's information document INDG 479 provides information on how the HSE expect fit testing to be conducted.  


Why it's Important to Focus on Fit

Does Respirator Fit Matter?

At 3M, we think that the answer to that question is “Yes”. In a workplace environment, if a worker’s respirator doesn’t seal properly on the wearers face, there’s no certainty that it is providing the expected level of protection. A good fit means the respirator (also known as a face mask) will seal against your skin. A “tight fitting” respirator, such as a filtering facepiece respirator/disposable respirator, or a reusable respirator such as a half mask of full face mask can only work when air passes through the filter. Air will take the path of least resistance, so if the seal to the face isn’t there, the air will leak around, rather than go through the respirator, and therefore lessen the protection. One of the common issues with good respirator fit is facial air.

What is the problem with facial hair?

  • Users  wearing 3M respiratory masks

    Close fitting respirators need to seal tightly to the face. Gaps in this face seal let the dirty air leak inside the respirator. Respirator filters cannot clean the air leaking through the face seal.
    It is known that the growth of stubble and facial hair can give significant leak paths for contaminants. For further information on this topic please see the HSE's research report: RR1052 The effect of wearer stubble on the protection given by Filtering Facepieces Class 3 (FFP3) and Half Masks.

    Face seal leakage reduces the wearer's protection. 


What are the face fit requirements in the United Kingdom?

Fit testing is a means of checking that a respirator facepiece matches a person’s facial features and seals adequately to their face. There are several methods available and the Health and Safety Executive’s information document INDG 479 provides information on how the HSE expect fit testing to be conducted.
The performance of tight fitting respirators relies on achieving a good seal between the facepiece of the respirator and the wearer’s face. If the seal is inadequate, contaminated air will take the path of least resistance and will travel through leaks in the face seal. Consequently, a poor seal to the face will reduce the level of protection provided to the wearer. Fit testing should be carried out by a competent person. One way of demonstrating competence is to be become Fit2Fit accredited.

How 3M can help with Fit Testing?

Link to the HSE

Fit2Fit


Man testing a respirator

What is face fit testing


Do you have workers who wear tight fitting respirators (those that rely on a seal with the face) such as Disposable, Half Mask or Full Face Masks (including those fitted to a powered or supplied air respirator)? If so, you are required to fit test them. HSE requires qualitative or quantitative fit testing before a user wears a tight fitting facepiece.

In addition, fit tests should be:


  • Completed  whenever there is a change to the RPE type, size, model or material 

  • Repeated whenever there is a change to the circumstances of the wearer that could alter the fit of the RPE; for example: weight loss or gain; substantial dental work; any facial changes (scars, moles, effects of ageing etc) around the face seal area; facial piercings; introduction or change in other head-worn personal protective equipment (PPE).

 


Seal Check vs Fit Test

A good fit means the respirator will seal to your facial features. A respirator can only work when air passes through the filter. Air will take the path of least resistance, so if the seal isn't there, the air will go around rather than through the respirator - and therefore the reduce the protection provided.

  • respiratory fit resring
    Fit Testing

    Fit testing is required for employees wearing tight-fighting respirators, such as disposable or reusable respirators. This procedure helps ensure the user has selected the correct size respirator and that a seal against the face can be made in order to provide the expected protection.
     

  • Man in 3M respiratory mask
    User seal check: An essential everyday test

    A user seal check ensures the tight-fitting respirator is being worn right each time the user puts on the respirator. 
    Users can either perform a positive-pressure or negative-pressure seal check as described in the product User Instructions.

  • Safety glasses, hearing protection, face shields, hard hats and coveralls can all vie with a respirator for real estate on a person's face, head or body, potentially interfering with the respirator seal.
    To catch these problems before they happen any PPE that could interfere with the respirator's seal should be worn during the fit test.


How 3M can help with Fit Testing?


Fit Test Equipment

View our online catalog of products to help you run a successful fit testing program.

  • Find convenient fit testing kits containing all you need to perform Qualitative Fit Testing.

  • Find apparatus hoods, nebulizer and solution options.

  • Find disposable and resusable respirators, and test adaptors.

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Fit Q&A & Resources

Q&A


Resources

Fit Videos
Fit Posters
Test Reports
Testing Bulletins
Useful Links

Fit2Fit
HSE Fit Testing Basics