Are you using RPE and not sure what to select or is your knowledge limited within this area? Or perhaps you’re new to RPE and need some handy initial advice? Maybe, you have the correct RPE but are not aware of face fit testing requirements or what you should be doing as an Employer? RPE and face fit testing is a varied subject, so, to help, we have answered some of your basic FAQs which we’re certain will point you in the right direction!
Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is specialised equipment designed to protect individuals from inhaling harmful substances in the air. It serves as a crucial safety measure in environments where there is a risk of exposure to airborne hazards, such as dust, fumes, gases, vapors, or biological contaminants.
Key points about Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE):
Types of RPE:
Workplace Risk Assessment:
Training and Fit Testing:
Regular Maintenance and Inspection:
Whether you need Respiratory Protective Equipment depends on the nature of your work, the potential hazards present, and the regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction. If you work in an environment where airborne hazards are present, your employer should conduct a risk assessment to determine the need for and type of RPE required to safeguard your respiratory health.
If you’re new to RPE, at first it may seem complex, however, the HSE provide a handy guidance booklet to help steer your decision-making processes. This guidance is called the HSG53 Respiratory Protective Equipment in the workplace. RPE should be suitable and adequate for the wearer, the task and the environment. Carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment will help you to determine the type of hazard/s you’re working with, and any existing control measures used. From there, you can start to ascertain what RPE may be required, the correct level of protection needed and the right mask-for-the-task. There is a handy flowchart available within the HSG53 to further shape your thought process and assist when selecting the right level of protection and RPE. In addition, use the free tools available such as COSHH Essential Guidance and RPE selector.
A hierarchy of risk controls, In this example provided a construction specific one, should be adopted with PPE considered a last resort. In all cases, employers should also refer to any Workplace Exposure Limits that may be relevant to your hazard; this is particularly important as providing just RPE may not be sufficient or acceptable for said task. PPE is a last resort and although very important, often can be the first port of call to protect workers. And so, consider this at the end of your risk controls and look for better ways of eliminating or reducing the hazard first.
Absolutely, there are many considerations before handing over those credit card details. It is paramount that you purchase compliant RPE that is fit for use. Unfortunately, both at ESS and as reported by many fit2fit testers, there has been a noticeable surge in the use of non-compliant masks, particularly since the Covid pandemic. More alarmingly, some RPE, particularly disposables and half face respirators may look on the surface, by way of having relevant standard markings stamped on them, seem compliant, but this on its own doesn’t mean it is. So what advice can we offer you? 5 simple steps to purchasing RPE -
*Less NIOSH Masks
Like any other H&S processes or procedures you may have within the workplace, RPE is no different. As part of your Risk Assessment and overall SSOW you must detail procedures and arrangements for all aspects of RPE so you and your staff know what is required and when, we call this an RPE program. This program usually contains information on the selection processes, training, usage, maintenance, records, storage and fit testing, but clearly it is not limited to just this. Link this program into your Risk Assessment and Method Statements to provide clarity to all staff when using and wearing RPE.
All tight fitting RPE will require face fit testing. The HSG53 details which RPE requires fit testing and the type of fit testing methods that are applicable so you must ensure you check this. Loose fitting RPE does not require fit testing. The 2 approved forms of face fit testing within the UK is Qualitative (Taste) and Quantitative (Portacount). Quantitative can be used across the whole range of RPE and is considered objective, however, Qualitative is restricted to disposable and half face respirators only and is subjective in nature.
As people come in various shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular facepiece or size will fit everyone – we’re all different after all. Face fit testing will ensure that a particular make, model and size of RPE is not only suitable to the wearer but also that there is no leak from the seal of the facepiece.
Fit testing should always be carried out upon initial selection of RPE, or any change in make, model or size of a respirator. Repeat testing should be considered when there is significant weight loss or gain, new additions of PPE and any Facial changes such as surgery. RPE should be fit tested periodically, or as designated by any Regulations specific to your workplace. BSIF recommends certificates should not exceed more than 2 years.
The INDG 479 is the industry guidance for face fit testing within the UK. You must be competent to face fit test. The fit2fit website and the HSE also provides guidance on face fit testing.
The HSE recommends that you only use fit2fit accredited testers. Testers holding this gold standard accreditation have been externally assessed and are deemed to have a high level of knowledge, skills and experience to carry out competent face fit testing correctly and efficiently.
In short, yes, but only if you have the necessary competence and have attended a relevant course of instruction. It’s vital that before you book this training you check out the company, the trainer and any relevant accredited approvals such as the tester themselves being fit2fit. In addition, like us here at ESS, the course can also be approved by fit2fit which meets the gold standard for training content. So not only are the courses accredited, so are our trainers.
Tight fitting RPE requires wearers to be clean shaven as its performance is reliant on the facepiece seal and contact to the skin. If the wearer is not clean shaven it will affect the performance and potentially expose workers to harmful substances. There is an extensive report for facial hair and RPE if required and interested RR1052. The COSHH Regulations and the HSG53 also specifies requirements for shaving. Wearers may have a moustache or goatee providing it does not interfere with the seal and is kept in the same condition, growth and size wise, as when fit tested. To conclude, face fit testing should not be carried out with facial hair within the seal of the facepiece.