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Coronavirus: Fit testing face masks

Posted on 30th March, 2020

The Health and Safety Executive has provided updated guidance in respect of fit testing face masks during the current coronavirus situation.

Respiratory protective equipment: Fit testing face masks

Tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable FFP3 masks and reusable half masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) can protect the wearer.

To ensure that workers put on tight-fitting RPE correctly, they should use a mirror or ask a colleague. Fit-testers should follow government advice on social distancing, as they can make observations from this distance and deliver any instructions verbally.

The user should then carry out a pre-use seal check or fit check. The following poster gives guidance on how to put on disposable respirators and how to do a pre-use seal check or fit check:

Minimise the risk of transmission

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or are isolating in accordance with government guidance should not attend a face fit test.

To minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 during face-fit testing the following additional measures should be taken:

  • fit-testers should follow government advice on social distancing, as they can make observations from this distance and deliver any instructions verbally
  • those being fitted should keep their respirators on if closer observation is required to minimise risk to testers
  • both the fit tester and those being fit tested should wash their hands before and after the test in accordance with NHS guidelines
  • those being fit tested with non-disposable masks should clean the mask themselves before and immediately after the test using a suitable disinfectant cleaning wipe (check with manufacturer to avoid damaging the mask)
  • test facepieces that cannot be adequately disinfected (e.g. disposable half masks) should not be used by more than one individual
  • fit testers should wear disposable gloves when undertaking cleaning of the tubes, hoods etc and ensure they remove gloves following the correct procedure
  • immediately dispose of used gloves, disposable masks, cleaning wipes etc in a waste bin

Further advice on fit testing face masks

A fit test should be carried out before people wear RPE for the first time. Inadequate fit can reduce the protection provided and lead to immediate or long-term ill-health or can even put the RPE wearer’s life in danger. A fit test should be repeated whenever there is a change to the RPE type, size, model or material or whenever there is a change to the circumstances of the wearer that could alter the fit of the RPE, for example:

  • weight loss or gain
  • substantial dental work
  • any facial changes (scars, moles, effects of ageing etc) around the face seal area
  • facial piercings
  • introduction or change in other head-worn personal protective equipment (PPE)

There is no stipulated frequency for re-testing, and you do not need one if there are no changes in these circumstances.

More detailed guidance is available on the respiratory protective equipment section of the HSE’s website.

If your business requires additional advice or support please contact one of our team.

Fit testing face masks
Fit testing face masks is very important during the coronavirus situation

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