Qualitative Face Fit Testing

19th September 2017

As part of our Occupational Health services that we provide, our Technician, Kate, can carry out face mask fit testing. Kate is fully qualified to carry out these assessments and completed her course at the HSE laboratories in Buxton, Derbyshire. Kate carries out Qualitative face fit testing on a regular basis for our clients such as Denby Pottery Company Limited based in Derbyshire.

The purpose of face fit testing is to determine if a person’s face mask fits them correctly as not everyone has the same shaped face, and different types of face masks fit different individuals. Qualitative fit testing is suitable for testing disposable filtering facepieces (FFPs), or half mask type respirators.

At the beginning of each clinic, Kate will speak to the Health and Safety advisor and obtain various facemasks that the company provides for their staff. Kate will also offer any advice should the H&S advisor require it regarding face fit testing.

To carry out Qualitative fit testing, a spacious room is required so that the wearer of the face mask can move around. This prior information is always provided to the client when arranging the clinics. The client will also be made aware that each employee that requires testing must be informed the of the following:

  • To be clean shaven
  • To not smoke for at least one hour before the test
  • To not eat, drink (except water) for at least 30 minutes before the test
  • To bring with them any other PPE or medical corrective devices (e.g. spectacles) which they will need to wear when wearing the RPE.

Should an individual attend their assessment with facial hair, it will be an instant fail as the seal of the face mask will be broken. At some companies, it is in their contract that all employees must be clean shaven if they wear a face mask for their job role.

Everyone is allocated 30 minutes for an assessment. At the beginning of each assessment, I explain to the person why they have been sent to see me for face fit testing. The purpose of the test is to make sure that whatever the person is exposed to at work, for example, dust or chemicals etc, that they are not breathing these things in and they are not settling on the lungs.

The first part of the test is to see if the individual understands how to put on a face mask correctly. I ask the individual if they have ever been shown how to put on a face mask or if they have ever read the instructions on the boxes. I am yet to come across a person who has ever read the instructions! I also advise the individual that face masks have an expiry date, which not a lot of people are aware of. Expiry dates can be found on the side of the boxes. Once I have checked that the mask is in good condition, I then proceed to show the individual the correct way of putting on a mask, and then I check to see if the mask fits them. I am looking to make sure that it does not rise near their eyes, there are no gaps around the cheeks and under the chin, whilst also checking that it is the correct size for their face. Should the face mask not fit them, we try another face mask that the company can offer their staff.

The second part of the test is the sensitivity test. The aim of this test is to see how sensitive the individual is to the Bitrex solution that we use. During this part of the assessment, a face mask is not required. The individual stands up and we place a hood over their head. The front of the hood is clear so that the individual can see through. Also at the front of the hood is a small opening where we place the solution. Using one of the nebulizers, which has been prepared with the sensitivity test solution, we place it through the small opening and we inject the solution into the hood; this is not pointed directly at the individual’s mouth but at an angle. Once we have established the results from this test, we can then proceed with the face mask fit test.This is the main part of the face fit test and this is where we find out if the face mask does fit the individual correctly.

The individual places the face mask on and once again we check that it is on correctly. The hood is then placed over the head again, as before. During this test, we ask the individual to perform small exercises, each lasting for one minute. The reason why we carry out these tasks is because when the individual is at work, for example on the shop floor, they are not standing still. They are moving constantly or talking. The type of exercises that are carried out during this part of the assessment all include taking one step forward and one step back, whilst also moving their head side to side or talking out loud. There are 6 exercises altogether, each one lasting for one minute. This is to make sure that when the individual is moving around, that their face mask is staying in the correct position and is not moving around.

If at any point during the test, the individual can taste the solution, it means that their face mask does not fit them correctly and we use another type of face mask which has been provided from Health and Safety. However, if the individual completes all the tasks without tasting the solution, we then complete the assessment by carrying out the “break seal” test. This is where at the end of the test, the individual pulls their face mask from their face and breaths in. They are now able to taste the solution. It’s not a pleasant taste to say the least!
All information is recorded on a face fit test certificate which is signed by both parties and passed onto the Health and Safety Advisor.

Should you require any further information regarding face fit testing or any of our other services, please contact David Barber (OH) Limited at kate@dbocchealth.com.

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