Why is face fit testing so important?

 

12,000 people die each year from lung disease linked to their past exposures at work.  18,000 more report work-related breathing or lung problems.  RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) isn’t your only solution.  Spray booth extraction and filtration systems take priority and provide the main line of defence, but if you have RPE that fits you, you drastically improve your chances of staying healthy.

 

Why wear a mask?

There are many different types of Respiratory Protective Equipment, but whether you use a disposable mask, a re-usable half mask or even a mask incorporated into a powered air system, its aim is to protect your lungs from the nasty substances you work with.  But, if it’s tight fitting, it has to seal to your face in order to work properly.  Even a tiny leak around the edge will by-pass the filter and let in hazardous air, exposing you to substances which will potentially cause serious health problems later in life.

 

Why doesn’t my mask fit?

None of us are the same shape and size as the average designers’ mannequin.  We’re all very different, so a mask that fits you perfectly won’t necessarily fit anyone else you work with.  There are other reasons why masks fail.  Even subscription glasses or goggles can stop your mask from sealing properly, and even if the mask has a perfect seal to your face, it relies on the filters to protect you, so it is vital to ensure you wear the correct ones for the job. Faults with the mask such as damaged valves will also render it useless.  Never try to make modifications to your mask; if it doesn’t fit, wear a different one!

Noses, jawbones, beards and many other facial features make each one of us wonderfully unique, but they also present mask fitting issues. Cosmetic surgery is probably a little excessive for most of us, so we’ll just have to accept that the right mask needs to be selected for each person. This is why fit testing is essential.

 

What is fit testing and who will do it for me?

Fit testing is a way of finding a model of mask that can fit a particular person. It’s the only way you can know if the seal on your mask is good enough. Currently, it’s also the only way of meeting legal requirements so everyone who wears a tight-fitting protective mask should have a fit test for it.  If you or your mask change, you hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhwill need to be retested.

This is where Ultrimax step in.  We now have a team of Fit2Fit accredited RPE fit testers which is recognised by the HSE in their 282/28 fit testing guidance.  Basically, we’re qualified to do your fit testing for you.  This is all part of the ‘Total Paint Shop Support’ we offer, ensuring your paint shop is compliant with HSE regulations and helping you to keep your employees fit and healthy.

 

The trouble with stubble

Beards and stubble are a common problem, because if there’s hair in the way, the mask wont seal.  However, you needn’t despair; there is an alternative that doesn’t involve shaving.  Loose fitting respirators rely on sufficient airflow through a facepiece and do not have to seal to your face.  The constant flow of filtered air into the hood means that any leakage through gaps in the seal goes outwards, not inwards, keeping you protected.  Loose fitting RPE can be worn with beards and it doesn’t need to be fit tested.

 

What are the advantages of loose-fitting RPE?

Many people actually find it more comfortable than other masks too, and despite its high initial investment its going to save you the money and hassle of constantly replacing your mask or filters. That said, loose-fitting RPE isn’t going to be best suited to every situation but for us folks in the paint and coatings industry, more often than not we’re going to need it anyway.  The isocyanates in many of the paints we use are far too dangerous to justify using anything but air fed systems – not even battery powered hoods are sufficient – so if you’re hoping not to join the 12,000 that fall victim each year, it definitely will be worth your investment.

Recent research has shown 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!

 

Next Steps

Your employees are your most valuable asset.  How well do you protect them?  Do your sprayers use face respirator masks?  Have they ever been properly face fit tested?  And if so, when were they last tested?

Health & Safety is a core aspect of the workplace and it is the duty of every supervisor to implement the necessary key procedures to protect employees.  Don’t hesitate to contact us with regards to any of your face fit testing or RPE queries.  Call us on 01302 856666 or simply email sales@ultrimaxcoatings.co.uk.

 

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