Why do you need Face Fitting?
Under the Health and Safety Act 1974, it is law that you must be Face Fitted before any tight fitting Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is used. This is to ensure it forms a good seal on the face. It must be able to provide adequate protection for the individual wearer. RPE cannot protect the wearer if it leaks. A major cause of leakage is due to poor fitting face pieces, which are too loose or too tight. As people come in all shapes and sizes, it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE will fit everyone. Fit Testing will ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer, fitting correctly and minimising exposure to the hazard.
The best time to carry out fit testing is at the initial selection stage. The individual users can then be given a choice of adequate models of RPE, from FFP’s (Disposable) up to Full Face masks. You should ensure that the make, model, type, and size of RPE the individual wore when they had their successful Fit Test is made available for their use. If an employee wears more than one type of tight-fitting face piece, then each type of RPE should be Fit Tested to see if it’s fitting correctly.
Many masks rely on a good seal against the face, so that when the individual breathes air in, it is drawn into the filtering material where the air is cleaned. If there are any gaps around the edges of the mask due to poor fitting, the contaminated air will pass through these gaps and into their lungs, putting the individual at risk. It is therefore very important that the individuals are RPE trained so they can put the mask on correctly and check for a good fit every time.
Facial hair is a big failure of RPE as stubble and beards make it impossible to get a good seal of the mask to the face.
The wearer must be clean-shaven.
If the individuals are clean-shaven when wearing tight mask (ie. those which rely on a good seal to the face), this will prevent leakage of contaminated air around the edges of the mask and into their lungs. The wearer will therefore be breathing in clean air, which will help them.
If there are good reasons for having a beard (eg. For religious reasons), there are alternative forms of RPE that are available which do not reply on a tight fit to the face.