If you have decided that staff need to wear masks to reduce the hazards from vapours or particulates then you have an obligation under COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) to ensure that the mask is suitable.
What is a Fit Test?
There are two types:
Qualitative: can be used for 1/2 face and disposable respirators or masks. It uses 'taste' and a range of exercises carried out to determine if the mask is suitable for the person wearing it. The test is Pass or Fail. (This is the type of test we do).
Quantitative: uses numerical measurement of the amount of leakage into the mask by placing a probe inside the mask and comparing levels of the test substance inside and outside the mask.
When do we need to do one?
Whenever anyone uses a tight fitting respirator / mask to protect them from fumes, particles, vapours they are exposed to during their work.
Can anyone not have a fit test?
The fit test cannot be carried out on people with stubble or beards because the respirator will not seal effectively and therefore not offer full protection. Full face/air fed masks must be used or the employee must shave.
How long does it take?
First a sensitivity test needs to be carried out, then a half hour wait to remove all traces of the test solution.
Then, a discussion of the mask that is worn, relevant checks and how to fit it.
The actual test takes about 10 minutes.
How much does it cost?
This does depend on how many people that need the test.
From £45 per mask.
If employees wear more than one type of respirator they need testing on both.
NB even masks that have a self test feature state in their instructions that the wearer should undergo a fit test.