Respiratory Protective Equipment and Face Fitting: Frequently Asked Questions
Question. What is an RPE programme?
Answer. As part of your risk assessment, justify the reasons behind your decision to use RPE.
An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need to ensure that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearers.
To have an effective RPE programme you need to:
- Correctly select RPE.
- Train for correct use.
- Ensure correct use (including supervision).
- Check to ensure RPE is working correctly before each use.
- Maintain RPE in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and law.
- Keep records as required by law.
- Correctly store RPE.
- Correctly dispose of RPE.
Any shortcomings in one of the steps in the programme could result in wearers not receiving adequate protection.
Question. Can I rely on the CE mark for selecting RPE for my task?
Answer. No, RPE used at work must be “CE” marked to confirm that they have been designed and tested to meet at least the minimum requirements laid out in law. CE marking on RPE does not make it automatically suitable for a task. Employers are legally responsible for selecting the right RPE for the task, substance, work environment and the wearer.
Question. As an employer when should I provide RPE?
Answer. The law requires employers to prevent or control the exposure of employees and others (e.g. subcontractors) to hazardous substances at work.
Before using RPE, exposure should be controlled by other measures (such as local exhaust ventilation), which are reasonably practicable. In other words, RPE should only be used as a last choice of protection when working with hazardous substances such as gases, solvents, powered chemicals, mists and sprays or entering a confined space.
You could need RPE:
- When needed in addition to other control measures for safe working.
While you are arranging to install other control measures.
- For clearing up a spill.
- For maintenance.
- During temporary failure of a control measure at source, e.g. sudden failure of LEV.
- For cleaning, e.g. low pressure washing of a dusty shed.
- For short, one-off procedures.
Question. What are the requirements for Facepiece Fit testing?
Answer. Where RPE is used, it must be able to provide adequate protection for individual wearers. RPE can’t protect the wearer if it leaks. A major cause of leaks is poor fit – tight-fitting facepieces need to fit the wearer’s face to be effective.
As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE facepiece will fit everyone. Fit testing will help ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer.
RPE fit testing should be conducted by a competent person – you should take steps to ensure that any person you engage as a fit tester is appropriately trained, qualified and experienced, and is provided with appropriate information to undertake each particular task. The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) has introduced a face fit tester accreditation scheme for which may provide evidence to help you decide whether a fit tester is competent. www.fit2fit.org
Question. Why should I wear RPE?
Answer. RPE can protect your health and even save your life. Many workers have died because they have entered confined spaces without RPE, used incorrect RPE and/or worn RPE incorrectly.
Many of the gases, vapours and dusts that cause serious damage to lungs and other parts of the body can be invisible to the naked eye. RPE can help to protect you from these hazardous substances that can cause serious diseases.
Employees have a legal duty to cooperate with their employers and use control measures (justified by risk assessment) provided in accordance with the instruction, information and training provided.
- Use RPE properly whenever it is required to be used.
- Report any defects in, or damage to, the RPE immediately.
- Participate in any training or instruction provided on RPE.
- Inform their employer of any medical conditions they have that might be affected by the use of the RPE provided to them.
Question. Do you have to be clean shaven when wearing Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)?
Answer. Yes, any individual wearing tight fitting RPE must be clean shaven in the area of the seal and the face. Tight fitting means any RPE face piece / mask which relies on a seal being created between the wearer’s skin and the mask itself.
More information available:
Question. What RPE does not require face fitting?
Answer. Loose fitting RPE such as hoods, helmets, blouses and suits, available as powered respirators or suits
Question. What happens if you wear tight fitting Respiratory Equipment and you are not clean shaven?
Answer. If the wearer is not clean shaven the integrity of the seal is undermined and the wearer will not be protected from the hazard. It is essential that a wearer is clean shaven in the area of the seal of the face piece. If you would like more information on the effects of stubble please click the link.
Question. Where does it say that you have to be clean shaven?
Answer. The Health and Safety Executive reference the the need to be clean shaven widely throughout their guidance on RPE. However, please see the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, specifically covered on pages 40 and 41
Question. If I change to using a different mask do I need another face fit test?
Answer. Yes, a change in the Make, Model, or Size of mask other than that, that you were face fitted on will require another face fit test to ensure that the new mask fits and provides the required protection.
Question. Where can you find guidance on using Respiratory Protective Equipment and Face Fitting?
Answer. There is comprehensive information available on the “Resources” section of this website. Following the links below to the HSE’s publications “Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work “(a practical guide) HSG 53 and HSE’s publication Guidance on Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) Fit Testing will provide all that you would normally need to know
Question. How can I tell if the face fitting I have had has been carried out competently?
Answer. Competence can be demonstrated by through skill, knowledge and the experience of a face fit tester. The Fit2Fit competency assessment process evaluates all of this. So look for the Fit2Fit Accreditation, then you can be confident your provider is competent.
Question. Where can I find a qualified, competent face fitter?
Answer. Simply click on the link below or access Find a Fit Tester through the tab on the Fit2Fit website home page.