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With over 12,000 lung disease deaths a year in the UK linked to exposures at work, the need to protect your workforce with well fitted RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) should remain a priority. However many employers are unaware of their responsibilities when it comes to issuing RPE, and in particular surrounding Face Fit Testing. Here’s what you need to know:
1 - Is Face Fit Testing a legal requirement?
Yes, it is a legal duty under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, Control of Lead at Work and Control of Asbestos Regulations.
2 - What does it involve?
There are two types of testing;
- Quantitative- performed using particle counting or controlled negative pressure devices which calculates the effectiveness of fit.
- Qualitative- a pass/fail method based on the mask wearer being able to detect a bitter, sweet or odorous compound through taste or smell.
A series of exercises are also performed to simulate the wearer’s movements during a normal working day, allowing the mask seal to be assessed under realistic conditions. The wearer should be clean shaven as beards and stubble will affect the fit of a mask.
3 - How often does it need to be completed?
The testing must be documented and records kept for at least five years though it’s advisable to re-test whenever a new type of RPE is issued, or if facial features change, such as from weight loss/gain. Best practice would be to re-test every 12-24 months.
4 - What are the risks of not being compliant?
Since the introduction of the legislation in the UK, a number of companies have been served Improvement Notices and costs associated with Fee For Intervention (FFI). With the number of compensation claims increasing, employers who do nothing risk legal action being taken against them by both current and ex-employees. The potential for retrospective litigation is considerable - and without clear evidence that employees were tested, claims may become increasingly difficult to defend against.
For more information or help with Face Fit Testing contact UKHSE. www.ukhsetraining.co.uk
UKHSE is a national provider of Health & Safety training and consultancy. Ourteam of experienced consultants and trainers help organisations across all areas of health and safety and have a strong reputation for providing sound and practical advice.