The Importance of RPE and Face Fit Testing

Respiratory Protective Equipment

Otherwise known as RPE is a subject matter which, often, at times is not taken seriously enough.

When RPE is not fitted correctly or worse still not worn at all it increases a worker’s chances significantly of developing diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, COPD and silicosis as a result of the inhalation of dangerous particles and gases found on many sites. This can be caused by a number of factors;

  • Products containing volatile solvents
  • Cutting materials such as stone or wood
  • Working with or handling dusty powders
  • Welding steels

So What’s The Problem?

Many worker’s find the use of RPE an inconvenience – it makes it too awkward to work, it makes them too hot, they can’t breathe, they don’t want to shave every day, it’s only a quick job and so on.

But really, it only takes a couple of minutes of exposure to make someone ill AND not all hazards can be seen with the naked eye. You may think you’re in a safe working environment, when really you could be surrounded by hundreds of really dangerous & harmful dust particles.

The way to conquer this poor attitude? Knowledge, understanding, training & a good safety culture.

Do you think if you explained to your employees that over 12,000 people die each year as a result of long-term exposure to harmful substances attitudes might change slightly? I mean 12,000 people, that’s an incredibly high number!

Who’s Responsible?

As an employer, it’s YOUR legal responsibility under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, COSHH Regulations 2002, Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002, Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999, Confined Space Regulations 1997 and the PPE at Work Regulations 1992. That’s a lot of legislation!

All of these regulations are supported by the HSE with up to date guidance and ACOPS to help ensure you are complying with the law;

The 2 major factors to consider is that the RPE you are using or providing your employees with is suitable and adequate. RPE comes in sooo many different shapes and sizes, all designed to tackle specific jobs. Make sure you are using the right equipment for the right task.

Now For The Biggy

It is estimated that 50% of RPE is not worn or fitted correctly.

Essentially this deems it null and void. It’s pointless. Think about it, every single person on this planet has a different face (maybe with the exception of identical twins right enough, and maybe doppelgangers) but the point is, how can you expect a tight fitting mask to fit every one in the same way straight out of the packet. It doesn’t.

There’s a couple of options for this. 

  1. An external tester can fit your employee’s masks for you, either on your site or at a testing centre
  2. One of our instructors can train up to 6 of your employees to become testers. This is especially useful for when large numbers of your workforce are required to wear RPE.

It doesn’t take much to do it right, but if you do it wrong it can be fatal.

As always, we are here to help, and we have an abundance of resources available should you require more information. Get in touch today.