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Face Fit Explained

Face Fit explained tries to help with many frequently asked questions you have.

  • What does close/tight/loose fitting mean?

    Close and tight fitting are the terms usually given to a full face mask, a half mask or a filtering face piece that relies heavily on the quality of the fit of the face piece to the wearers face.  Loose fitting face pieces include visors, helmets, hoods and blouses.

  • Does fit testing mean that I now have to have my own face piece?

    No.  However, you need to ensure that the make, model, type and size of face piece that you wear is the same as the mask worn during the face fit test.

  • I've just been on a breathing apparatus training course, why didn't they do the test as part of the course?

    If you sit your breathing apparatus course at Arco Professional Safety Services Ltd we can offer a limited number of tests on the day you attend for your course.  However, these are limited to early morning (prior to course start), during breaks and early evenings (after your course finishes).  As you can appreciate delegates cannot miss out any of the course content and because it takes up to a day to test a course full of delegates it is just not possible to test everyone on the day of their course.  To arrange a test on the day of your course, just speak to a member of the training team who will be happy to arrange this for you.

  • If I wear escape set masks do they need to be tested?

    Yes.  All close fitting masks, or in other words masks that work by creating a seal to your face need to be tested. If your escape set is a hooded set then the hood is classed as loose fitting (not close fitting) and therefore does not require a test.

  • Do I have to pass a face fit test before I go on a breathing apparatus course?

    No.  In fact it is the other way around. During the fit test you will be assessed on how well you fit the mask to your face so it is important you are competent in donning (putting on) procedures prior to the test.


  • What if I am unfit / overweight... should I still take the test?

    Yes – the test is not a fitness test or a health check.  The test is to determine how well the mask fits your face, NOT if you are fit enough to wear the mask.  Operatives do not have to be super fit to take the test but they will be expected to walk (not run) on a treadmill or step up and step down slowly for about 10 minutes.  If you have a cold then this can affect the test results (an increased number of particles in the mask!) – just speak to your tester who will be able to advise you.

  • My breathing apparatus works on positive pressure, do I still need a face fit test?

    Yes – during the breathing cycle (particularly during heavy exertion) you breathe faster in and out in the middle of your breath.  This is known as peak inhalation/exhalation. During this period it is possible to ‘over breathe’ the set which will then momentarily operate in negative pressure in relation to the outside atmosphere.

  • I do a pre-use check every time I use the mask, isn't that the same as a face fit?

    One of the pre-use checks for a face mask involves checking the seal by creating a negative pressure inside the mask and causing the mask to ‘suck’ onto the face.  This is a very quick test and does not take account of the movements a wearer makes during the course of their work or the effects of pressure inside the mask once working.  The only accurate method of testing for a seal is to carry out a formal face fit test.

  • Who says I need to be face fit tested?

    The supporting guidance for COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), CLaW (Control of Lead at Work) and CAR (Control of Asbestos Regulations) recommends face fit testing as a method of ensuring an adequate face seal.  The HSE document INDG479 (Fit Testing of Respiratory Protective Equipment Face Pieces) lays down the protocol for carrying out face fit testing.

  • Why do I need to be face fit tested?

    Tight fitting face pieces rely on achieving good contact between the wearer’s skin and the face seal of the face piece.  As people come in different shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one type of mask will fit everyone. A poor fit will reduce the level of protection and may lead to immediate or long term ill health of the wearer. A fit test is also useful for checking that the wearer can correctly don (put on) the face piece.

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