MEL Health and Safety Consultants

Face Fit Testing

Face Fit Testing

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 type of facepieces, irrespective of whether they are used in negative pressure respirators, power assisted respirators or compressed air supplied breathing apparatus, 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.

What is face 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 face 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.


Face fit testing is also useful for checking that a wearer can put on a respirator face piece 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.


When should a fit test be carried out?


A fit test should be carried out:

1)  As part of the initial selection of the RPE;

2)  Where an untested facepiece is already in use.


When should a repeat fit test be conducted?

A repeat fit test should be conducted in the following circumstances: 

1)  Where the wearer:

      a) loses or gains weight;

      b) undergoes any substantial dental work;

      c) develops any facial changes (scars, moles, etc) around the faceseal

          area; or


2)  If the employers health and safety policy requires it.

Which facepiece should be used for a fit test?


Where facepieces are issued on an individual basis it is recommended that the wearer is fit tested using their ‘own’ facepiece. Where this is not practicable or if pooled equipment is used then a test facepiece that exactly matches that which is usually utilised should be tested.


A great number of Approved Codes of Practice state that all reasonable steps should be taken to prevent exposure to substances hazardous to health or, where prevention is not possible, to reduce exposure to the lowest level reasonably practicable.


Suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) must be provided if, despite the precautions taken, exposure is not adequately controlled.  In the hierarchy of control measures RPE is regarded as the last resort as a means of controlling exposure to hazardous substances.  It is only when the exposure cannot be adequately reduced by other means, including the modification of work processes and engineering controls, should the use of RPE be considered.


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 (i.e. below any applicable Workplace 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 applicable legislation recommend the fit testing of RPE which incorporates a tight fitting facepiece.  This will help to ensure that inadequately fitting facepieces are not selected for use. 

For more information on this service please contact a member of our expert consultancy teamm on 01708 555544, or simply click here to contact us via email.