Safety First

When specifying Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) which includes Respiratory Protective Devices (RPD) it is important to consider the role of Fit2Fit and the needs of the user in addition to the performance characteristics of the RPE.

The importance of protecting workers from hazardous dust and fumes is not a new topic of debate. For some 2,000 years, the potential dangers have been recognised.

Fast forward to the present day and this issue remains a hot topic for debate and a key area of international safety and legislation. So much so that 2018 has seen the introduction of the ISO 16975-3:2017 – a new standard specifically designed to provide guidance on how to conduct a fit testing of tight-fitting Respiratory Protective Devices (RPS).

Designed to evaluate the performance of the seal between the wearer’s face and the respiratory interface, specific requirements for conducting RPD fit testing outlined in the new standard include:

  • Qualifications/competencies of fit test operations;
  • Specific fit testing procedures;
  • Interpretation of fit testing procedures;
  • Record keeping

We need to steer mindsets away from pure respirator performance to the relationship between the respirator and each individual user. In the past, a lot of disposable respirators were introduced to the market to purely meet the EN 149:2001 + A1:2009 standard, without necessarily considering the individuality of the user, how it fitted them and how it was used.

Where a tight-fitting face mask is required, a fit test on that mask and the person wearing it needs to be carried out. This is legal requirement detailed in the COSHH regulations.

Some people still don’t understand whether fit testing is a requirement for them or don’t know enough about it to make an effective judgement. Fit testing is also seen by some as time-consuming, expensive or not applicable to them.

Regardless of how often a mask is used- if it’s being used as an item of PPE it needs proper fit testing. It is also recommendable that regular fit testing is undertaken – ideally at least once every two years.

Recent research indicated that up to 50% of all RPE used does not offer the wearer the level of protection assumed and one of the major reasons is that simply does not fit!. However, under the regulations, RPE must be correctly selected and this includes, for many types of RPE, a facepiece fit test, conducted by a competent person. So how can you be sure the person conducting the fit test is competent?

Despite not being qualified to do so, some people think that they have adequate knowledge to conduct the fit test. RPE fit testing should be conducted by a competent person, anyone carrying out the fit test must be appropriately trained, qualified and experienced.

In view of these major concerns the British Safety Industry Federation, along with the HSE and other industry stakeholders have developed a competency scheme is designed to confirm the competency of any person performing face piece fit testing.

What makes a Fit2Fit accredited tester competent? They have passed an industry recognised exam and therefore demonstrate they have a thorough knowledge of the HSE guidance on its testing and can clearly demonstrate they have the knowledge to fit test in practical circumstances.

Should you or your employees require a fit test, then by using Fit2Fit accredited, competent fit testers can be found by going to the www.fit2fit.org and clicking on the “Find a tester” tab. Why take the risk of using a non-accredited tester when its so easy to source a fit test from a competent Fit2Fit tester?

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