Is your RPE fit for purpose?
14 February 2018
The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) general manager Frank Angear looks at the need for fit testing when using respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to clean in hazardous environments
Cleaning is a fundamental activity in all types of non-domestic establishments across every sector, public and private. The tasks that cleaners perform vary hugely as do the hazards they are exposed to whilst conducting their job.
The most common health complaints that cleaners make that are linked to their job are skin and breathing problems brought on, or exacerbated by, cleaning products.
Depending on the composition of the product being used cleaners are provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) based upon risk assessments carried out to identify the potential risks they could face. In circumstances where Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is found to be required there is a potential threat to the wearer of the RPE if it has not been correctly fitted.
Where a tight-fitting face mask is required, a fit test on that mask and the person wearing it needs to be carried out. This is a legal requirement detailed in the CoSHH regulations.
Recent research indicates that up to 50% of all RPE used does not offer the wearer the level of protection assumed and one of the major reasons is that it simply does not fit! Yet, under the regulations RPE must be correctly selected and this includes, for many types of RPE, a face piece Fit Test conducted by a competent person. So how can you be sure the person conducting the fit test is competent?
In view of these major concerns the BSIF, along with the HSE and other industry stakeholders, have developed a competency scheme for Fit Test Providers. The Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme is designed to confirm the competency of any person performing face piece fit testing.
What makes a Fit2Fit accredited tester competent? They have passed an industry recognised exam and therefore demonstrated they have a thorough knowledge of the HSE guidance on fit testing and can demonstrate they have the know how to fit test in practical circumstances.
If you or your employees require a fit test, then by using a Fit2Fit accredited tester you will be doing enough to demonstrate best practice and making sure the user of RPE is properly protected and has an effective seal on their mask.
A list of accredited, competent fit testers can be found by going to www.fit2fit.org and clicking on the ‘Find a tester’ tab.