MEL Health and Safety Consultants

HSE May Prosecute if Respiratory Protective Equipment is Not Fit Tested

Protective Masks Must Fit Correctly to be Effective

HSE Inspectors may consider prosecuting employers who fail to undertake face fit testing for their employees who are involved in work activities that require them to wear face masks.


What is facepiece fit testing?


It is a method for checking that a tight fitting facepiece matches the person's facial features and seals adequately to the wearer’s face. It will also help to ensure that incorrectly fitting facepieces are not selected for use.


What is the reason for facepiece fit testing?


The performance of tight-fitting facepieces depends on achieving a good contact between the wearer’s skin and the face seal of the facepiece. As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type, or size of RPE facepiece, will fit everyone. Inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer. Any reduction in protection can put the RPE wearer’s life in danger or may lead to immediate or long-term ill health.


It is also useful for checking that a wearer can put on a respirator facepiece correctly. Correct fitting of the facepiece at all times is vital to prevent exposure.


A fit test is not a substitute for correct and careful day-to-day fitting of the facepiece. The latter should always include a pre-use fit check.


It is vital that selected RPE is adequate and suitable for the purpose. Respiratory protective equipment must reduce exposure as low as reasonably practicable, and in any case to an acceptable level (e.g. below any applicable Occupational Exposure Limits or Control Limits). To make sure that the selected RPE has the potential to provide adequate protection for individual wearers, the ACoPs supporting COSHH, The Control of Asbestos at Work and The Control of Lead at Work recommend fit testing of RPE which incorporate a tight fitting facepiece. This will help to ensure that inadequately fitting facepieces are not selected for use.


Note: A tight fitting facepiece is a full-face mask, a half facemask, or a filtering facepiece (commonly referred to as a disposable mask). The performance of these types of facepieces relies heavily on the quality of fit of the facepiece to the wearer’s face. An inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer.


Fit test reports should be available for all employees who wear RPE incorporating tight fitting facepieces. Fit test records should be retained by the employer. These records must be kept available for inspection on request.


The HSE will consider prosecution on the following grounds:

  1.  Where persons are wearing tight fitting facepieces and have not undergone and passed an appropriate fit test;
  2. Where fit test results are not readily available;
  3. Where the results show that a particular mask did not fit the wearer and the wearer is continuing to use that type and size of facemask. Steps should have been taken to select a more appropriate facepiece and/or carry out retraining.

M.E.L (Health and Safety) Consultants are able to offer a face fit testing service with the provision of individual certificates issued on completion and advice on correct RPE selection.