Fit testing tight-fitting RPE
Face fit testing of tight-fitting RPE is required as a control measure to comply with health and safety law.
Tight-fitting RPE, such as disposable FFP3 masks, and reusable half masks, rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face.
To ensure that RPE will protect the wearer:
The wearer must be clean shaven to achieve a good seal between the tight-fitting respirator and the wearer's face. This prevents inward leakage of contaminated air from around the edges of the face seal being breathed into the lungs
Face fit tests should not be conducted if there is any hair growth between the wearer's skin and face-piece seal, including stubble beard growth, beard, moustache, sideburns or a low hairline
It is also very important that RPE is worn correctly and checked for a good fit every time it is put on.
Visit the HSE's fit testing basics webpage for more information. Further guidance is also available in their free to download publication, Guidance on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) fit testing.
When tight-fitting RPE is not suitable
It is vital that the selected RPE is adequate. Tight-fitting respirators are not the only option; powered respirators with loose fitting head tops (e.g. powered hoods) can be worn as an alternative and do not need to be fit tested before use.
This option may be considered for wearers of beards due to faith, through personal, non-religious choice, or when required to be worn with a compatible voice communication system.
See Respiratory protective equipment at work - A practical guide for more information.