Tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable FFP3 masks and reusable half masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face.

To ensure that respiratory protective equipment (RPE) will protect the wearer:

■ a face fit test should be carried out the first time a worker uses a particular type of respirator
■ the wearer should carry out a pre-use seal check or fit check, which they should repeat every time they put a respirator on

When carrying out a face fit test during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, testers and wearers should take additional measures to minimize the risk of transmission.

Face fit test

A face fit test should be carried out before people wear RPE for the first time. Inadequate fit can reduce the protection provided and lead to immediate or long-term ill health or can even put the wearer’s life in danger.

A fit test should be repeated whenever there is a change to the RPE type, size, model or material, or whenever there is a change to the circumstances of the wearer that could alter the fit of the RPE, for example:

■ weight loss or gain
■ substantial dental work
■ any facial changes (scars, moles, effects of ageing etc) around the face seal area
■ facial piercings
■ introduction or change in other head-worn personal protective equipment (PPE)

There is no stipulated frequency for retesting, and you don’t need to retest if there are no changes in these circumstances.

Find out more about face fit testing.

Minimize the risk of transmission

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or are isolating in accordance with government guidance should not attend a face fit test.

To minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 during face fit testing the following additional measures should be taken:

■ fit testers should follow government advice on social distancing, as they can make observations from a distance and deliver any instructions verbally
■ those being fitted should keep their respirators on, as much as possible to minimize risk to the tester
■ both the fit tester and those being fit tested should wash their hands before and after the test
■ those being fit tested with non-disposable masks should clean the mask themselves before and immediately after the test using a suitable disinfectant cleaning wipe (check with the manufacturer to avoid damaging the mask)
■ test face pieces that cannot be adequately disinfected (for example disposable half masks) should not be used by more than one individual
■ fit testers should wear disposable gloves when cleaning tubes, hoods etc and ensure they remove gloves following the correct procedure (PDF) - Portable Document Format (PDF)- Portable Document Format
■ immediately dispose of used gloves, disposable masks, cleaning wipes etc in a waste bin

Fit testers should familiarize themselves with the following potential contact points and actions to minimize transmission: