Did you know that all workers who wear face masks or breathing equipment should be individually tested to ensure their masks fit securely around their faces?
We're highlighting the importance of 'face-fit' tests, which are designed to check that face masks are protecting employees from dust and hazardous materials whilst at work.
Businesses are required to carry out regular face-fit tests. Additionally, records must be kept proving tests have been carried out and detailing the protective equipment for each worker.
Andy Brooks, our Health and Safety Officer, recently attended a face-fit training course and is now a qualified Qualitative Fit Tester, ensuring that any staff member working in conditions that require respirator face masks are suitably assessed and fitted with the correct equipment.
He said: "Our staff use masks and breathing equipment across a range of roles including paint-spraying and our site maintenance/recycling team. Regulations require all workers to be individually face-fit tested. Tests should also be carried out regularly to check for any change to respiratory protective equipment (RPE) or physical changes to the wearer's face.
For example, beards, stubble, scars, weight loss and even dental treatment can affect the face shape and mask tightness. Unless a really good fit is achieved, hazardous substances can be inhaled by the worker."
The basic face-fit test involves placing a hood over the employee's head and shoulders. A solution is then sprayed into the hood, to test the wearer's sense of smell and taste. If the solution can be smelled or tasted, the mask has failed the test.
Another more precise test is available for all masks including full face masks, re-usable filter or cartridge half masks and powered breathing equipment.
Health and safety staff have to determine the level of protection and filters that each employee needs for dust and vapours. Workers should also be shown how to maintain, check and clean their mask.
The lifetimes of masks vary depending on uses and how often each mask is worn. Filters can be changed and cleaned on re-usable masks while disposable masks should be disposed of properly at the correct time.