Where RPE (Face Masks) are used, they must provide adequate protection for individual users. RPE can't protect the user if it leaks. A major cause of leaks is poor fit to the face – tight-fitting face pieces need to fit the wearer’s face to be effective and not cause any leakage.
As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face piece will fit everyone. Face Fit testing will ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer.
The best time to do fit testing is at the initial selection stage, when individual users can be given a choice of adequate models/sizes of RPE. You should ensure that the make, model, type and size of face piece that they 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 facepiece, then each type of facepiece should be fit tested.
West Environmental provide a competent person that can undertake a RPE fit testing and can provide evidence to show that you have undertaken an RPE fit test.
A note on facial hair
Many masks rely on a good seal against the face so that, when you breathe air in, it is drawn into the filter material where the air is cleaned. If there are any gaps around the edges of the mask, ‘dirty’ air will pass through these gaps and into your lungs. It is therefore very important that you put your mask on correctly and check for a good fit every time.
Stubble and beards – make it impossible to get a good seal of the mask to the face.
If you are clean-shaven when wearing tight-fitting masks (ie those which rely on a good seal to the face), this will help prevent leakage of contaminated air around the edges of the mask and into your lungs. You will therefore be breathing in clean air, which will help you stay healthy.
If there are good reasons for having a beard (eg for religious reasons), alternative forms of RPE, that do not rely on a tight fit to the face, are available.
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