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From the CEO's desk - June 2019

14 May 2019

Companies that have chosen to use Respiratory Protective Equipment need to ensure it is fit tested on the wearer's face. Here, Alan Murray looks at the growth of the Fit2Fit scheme, and how you can comply with the law.

IN THE UK if an employer has chosen to use Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) as part of their “controls” it is the law that it must be fit tested on the wearer’s face so that it can provide the protection necessary to protect the individual from hazards. The law states that, not only should the RPE be fit tested but that it should be carried out by a competent person.

In the UK around 12,000 people die every year of a respiratory disease caused by breathing in a hazardous substance at work. Many thousands more suffer serious illnesses, affecting almost every aspect of their lives and ruining their later years. RPE competently face fit tested will help to ensure that the wearer is protected avoiding unnecessary impacts on their health.

The Fit2Fit Scheme administered by the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) and supported actively by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over 350 accredited competent face fitters in the UK and the scheme has a very clear mission…

“To improve and ensure the quality of the Fit Testing Equipment (RPE), contributing to significant reductions in the incidence of occupational respiratory disease”.

The Fit2Fit Accreditation Scheme has for some years been premised on two key HSE publications HSG 53 – Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work: A Practical Guide and OC 282/28 the specific guidance on the “What and the How” of face fitting.

The HSE took the view that it must retain the responsibility for whatmust be done in face fitting it decided that the Fit2Fit Scheme was best placed to take the role of informing industry how this should be carried out.

In April 2019, to support this change HSE launched new industry guidance INDG 479 – Guidance on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) fit testing replacing OC282/28.

In parallel, at an event attended by over 100 face fitters at the Health and Safety Event on April 10, Fit to Fit launched their Companions to INDG 479.

Fit2Fit created 3 detailed Companions based on INDG 479, but broken down into method specific publications covering.

  1. The Qualitative Method – based on Taste

  2. Quantitative Method – based on Ambient Particle Counting (APC)

  3. Quantitative Method – based on Controlled Negative Pressure (CNP)

The Companions took HSE guidance word for word and added Fit2Fit Guidance at the appropriate sections providing the necessary information to ensure effective life preserving face fitting can be carried out.

The Companions can be downloaded, along with other helpful face fitting resources, from www.fit2fit.org

The Companions cover fit test methods – fit factors – method selection and fit test reports and more guidance on facial hair, a problem that does not yet seem to be under control by duty holders.

The Companions are not a training course and competent training and mentored practise are absolutely essential to competency. Within the Fit2Fit Accreditation Scheme there is still a 30% failure rate on competency assessment. End users and employers should always seek a Fit2Fit Accredited provider for their face fitting requirements.

Face fitting of RPE is a legal requirement in the UK and other advanced nations and recommended best practice in others Fit2Fit is the recognised Competency Scheme for providers.

Reflecting the leading role that the UK has in Safety and Health agreement has been reached establishing Fit2Fit in Belgium and Luxembourg and advanced talks are currently underway for Fit2Fit to be run under licence in the 4 Scandinavian countries, with discussions also taking place for Australia.

Competent face fitting is vital for tight fitting RPE to be effective and ensure that the equipment can provide the protection that the wearer requires. Fit2Fit, embedding the scheme internationally, are playing an essential role in ensuring worker safety well beyond the UK.

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