Every year thousands of workers are affected by breathing in hazardous substances such as dusts, fumes and gases, with serious and irreversible implications for their health. HSE reports that there are approximately 12,000 deaths each year due to occupational respiratory diseases, about two thirds of which are due to asbestos-related diseases or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Industries where the workers are at greatest risk of contracting respiratory disease include construction, welding, quarrying, foundry, agriculture and the food industry.

Where RPE is used in the workplace, it must be able to provide adequate protection for individual wearers. Tight fitting face piece type RPE such as respirators and dust masks cannot protect the wearer if they leak. A major cause of leaks is a poor fit – tight-fitting face pieces must fit the wearer’s face to be effective.

As every wearer’s face will be a different shape and size it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face piece will fit everyone. Fit testing will ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer and also offer an assessment of the wearers understanding and ability to correctly wear it.

Qualitative Face Fit Testing

A qualitative face fit test is a simple pass or fail test based on whether the wearer of a mask can detect a test agent.  Whilst they are wearing the mask, a test agent (usually Bitrex) is sprayed into a hood worn over the head.  If the wearer can detect the test agent then the mask’s seal has leaked and does not provide a good fit for the wearer’s face under test.

Qualitative Testing

Taste test – uses either a bitter (Bitrex) or sweet (Saccharin) solution.  The wearer breathes through their mouth and will taste the solution if the mask does not fit.

Not All RPE Can be Tested Using The Qualitative Method

The Qualitative Face Fit Testing is suitable for disposable half masks and re-usable half mask respirators only. Full face masks cannot be tested using this method. Highland Asbestos Services uses the taste test with Bitrex and Saccharin solutions. The test is carried out using a specially designed kit and takes only a few minutes.

For more details of our Qualitative Face Fit Testing or to make a booking please call 01463 701784