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Face Fit Testing - Quantitative vs Qualitative

Updated: Mar 20

Face fit testing is a legal requirement for employees wearing close fitting respiratory protective equipment (RPE).


Employers are legally required  to carry out periodic FaceFit testing by a competent person.


Competence can be demonstrated by fit2fit accreditation under the fit2fit RPE fit test providers accreditation scheme. This scheme has been developed by the BSIF, together with industry stakeholders and is supported by the HSE.

“In preparing the Fit2Fit RPE fit testers accreditation scheme, BSIF and other industry stakeholders have worked closely with the experts in Health and Safety Executive (HSE)."


Facefit testing may be undertaken using the qualitative or quantitative method.


The qualitative method is a subjective test which relies upon the individual being able to detect a bitter or sweet substance by taste or smell whilst wearing the selected close fitting RPE.  If the individual can detect the substance, then the mask is not deemed to be a suitable fit for wearing when exposed to respiratory irritants and an alternative mask should be provided and the test repeated.


Unfortunately following the Covid pandemic some individuals sense of taste has been adversely affected, meaning that this assessment method may not be suitable for all staff, it is also feasible to the individual to indicate that they cannot taste the substance when they may be able to do so.


The quantitative method does not rely upon the individual tasting a substance but rather it measures the concentration of microscopic dust particles in the ambient air and the concentration of those same microscopic particles that leak into the close fitting RPE. Depending upon the type of mask worn if the number of particles inside the mask exceed a predetermined limit, then the mask is not deemed to be a suitable fit for wearing when exposed to respiratory irritants and an alternative mask should be provided and the test repeated.


Insight Workplace Health ONLY undertake FaceFit testing using the quantitative method.


This quantitative FaceFit testing method is recognised as being the most accurate means of assessing RPE suitability or face-seal leakage, for an individual.


The FitPro computer software enables your staff to see, in real time, the benefit of obtaining an effective fit with their provided RPE with the actual test process taking approximately 15 minutes alongside guidance and advice from the fit 2 fit accredited face fit tester.


The test complies with recognised guidance from the HSE on the testing of close fitting RPE.

The fit tester will advise the employee of the process and ensure that the wearer can fit their provided RPE in line with manufacturer’s instructions.


Then the mask being tested will be adapted to measure the ambient particles both inside and outside of the mask.


A series of exercises to simulate physical work activity are then undertaken by the individual to establish whether everyday actions may affect the fit of the RPE including (these can be seen in the video below)


  • Normal breathing

  • Deep breathing.

  • Turning head side to side

  • Moving head up and down

  • Talking

  • Bending over from a normal standing position

  • Normal breathing – as at the beginning of the exercise.


At the end of the test the Portacount test device will produce a Fit Test Report with the numerical values attained at each stage of the test and an overall fit factor. 


Where the RPE fails to provide the required minimum fit factor level for the specific respirator at any of the test stages the test will be aborted and a failed test report produced. 


The fit tester will examine the potential reason for the failed test with a view to retest the employee once any adjustments have been made or with an alternative size, make or model if required.

The fit tester will also provide necessary guidance about general wearing of and caring for the RPE as necessary, including for example guidance on the importance of being clean shaven at all times when RPE is worn.

Need to use facefit testing for your employees? You can contact us here or call us on 01792 321010 to get the ball rolling today.


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