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Home>Breathing Safely>Respirators>CEO's desk - June 23

CEO's desk - June 23

05 June 2023

Fit2Fit and ISRP recently hosted a joint workshop day at the Coventry Building Society Arena. Alan Murray summarises the day.

THE UK has, for a long time, appreciated the importance of face fitting respiratory protective equipment (RPE) when the protection of the wearer depends on a seal being formed between the skin and the mask. Further in the UK it is a regulatory requirement that the face fitting is carried out by a competent person adhering to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) guidance. The Fit2Fit competency scheme is the accepted means by which competence to face fit is demonstrated.

On the 18 of May Fit2Fit and the International Society for Respiratory Protection (ISRP) held a joint workshop with qualified face fitters and stakeholders to share industry developments and updates and to provide a platform for discussion on best practices. The event was a great success attracting some 94 attendees supported by nine table top exhibitors, demonstrating latest product developments and face fitting equipment.

The agenda for the day covered a wide variety of pertinent topics, with the day beginning with a presentation from the HSE, a key stakeholder in the Fit2Fit Scheme, (undertaken by Nick Baxter) which covered an overview of respiratory hazards and an update on HSE activities and the current programme of interventions to support effective respiratory protection in the workplace. 

The HSE presentation also referenced the long awaited Research Report on the (lack of) effectiveness of filtering face piece respirators with “ear loops”. The research Report RR1194 concluded, overwhelmingly, that ear loop masks are not fit for purpose. You can download a copy of the full report from https://www.fit2fit.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/rr1194-ear-loop-resirators.pdf

The HSE reiterated their concerns about respiratory health and the fact that we are still seeing 12,000 deaths per year caused by occupational lung disease. This problem is not going away and effective use of RPE must be promoted. I then had the opportunity to highlight BSIF’s concerns on the quality of PPE and specifically RPE in the market. I took the attendees through the “Is it Genuine” presentation looking at the number of non-compliant and unsafe RPE products on our market and our efforts to have them removed. 

I also had the opportunity to update the workshop on the expansion of the Fit2Fit Competency Qualification Scheme which is now operating under licence in Belgium and Luxembourg, in Italy and now in Finland, with additional territories preparing to get underway. These developments will make a significant contribution to improving respiratory health through competent face fitting of RPE.

In addition I was able to share some future plans that we have for the scheme in the UK, including the fact that, in time, the Fit2Fit “Qualification” will also carry a NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) endorsement. The additional NEBOSH endorsement will coincide with the change in reference from “Fit2Fit Accreditation” to “Fit2Fit Qualification”.

Paul Salisbury, of Firesafe International and the Fit2Fit Technical Committee, gave a fascinating presentation on “Hygiene” and avoiding the risk of infection during the face fitting process. This problem originally came to light during the pandemic but now, with most covid guidance removed, it was a timely reminder of how simple controls can help to avoid the transmission of infection.

As the day was designed to be interactive and engaging, there were two panel sessions planned, with the morning session taking questions, both general and specific to the presentations delivered. As ever the lively audience did not disappoint with plenty of challenging questions tabled.

As I said earlier there was a table-top exhibition area and the workshop attendees made good use of break and lunch time to engage with the manufacturers showing. 

The afternoon sessions kicked off with Mike Clayton, Fit2Fit’s lead assessor and past President of ISRP, taking the group through the work of the Fit2Fit Technical committee. Mike also illustrated other countries around the world where face fit testing is carried out, be it a regulatory requirement or “best practice”. Interestingly it was illustrated that in several European countries face fit testing is mandatory in certain industries, like asbestos, but not mandatory in other, arguably equally, dangerous sectors. The appreciation of and the understanding that face fit testing is a value adding, safety critical process is spreading quickly and a lot of work is currently being done by the European Safety Federation to promote the adoption of face fitting throughout the EU member states.

Dr. Karen Long, once again of both ISRP Board and the Fit2Fit Technical Committee, who had recently gained a doctorate in this discipline, presented an absorbing session on “Human Errors in Qualitative Fit Testing”. This compelling session drew on data from face fit assessments over the last 12 years and demonstrated where errors are most prevalent and how easily they can occur.

The final element of the day ahead of the afternoon panel session was delivered by Nick Baxter of the HSE Science Division giving the group a broad update on developments in product and face fitting standards.

The afternoon panel session again saw many lively and informative exchanges, through intelligent thought provoking questions from the floor, followed by considered responses from the panel comprised of the afternoon speakers.

The workshop day, which was closed by David Crouch of ISRP and Alan Murray of BSIF, was a very fulfilling day indeed.

Alan Murray is chief executive of BSIF. For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk