Employers Guide to Respiratory Protection and Face Fit Testing

This broad guide will explore the legislative requirements and need for Face Fit Testing in the Workplace and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).

Legislation and Guidance:

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a fundamental obligation on employers to ensure the overall health, safety, and welfare of employees. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 mandates employers to assess and control exposure to hazardous substances, underscoring the necessity of appropriate respiratory protection and face fit testing. Additionally, the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations 2022 require the provision of suitable Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) and its correct usage, including any training, inspections and compliance with standards. Of course, far more legislation and guidance is relevant to this topic including CAR Regs, Confined Space Regs, Ionising Radiation Regs, PUWER, Management of Health and Safety Regulations and more.

In any case, prior to fit testing, a quick 3 step process should be conducted for all COSHH to try and eliminate the need to use it.

Step 1 Carry out a COSHH risk assessment which looks at all aspects of the work to find out who may be may be harmed and why. Try using this link to assist – COSHH Essentials – COSHH e-tool (hse.gov.uk)

Step 2 Find out if the risk can be removed or significantly reduced by preventing or controlling it. Preventing exposure includes limiting a particular task, planning out the task, using less toxic substances or changing the method of work. Control measures include providing local exhaust ventilation, or screening off dusty areas to protect all those at work there.

Step 3 Consult the workforce.

Type of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE):

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is a crucial component in safeguarding workers against inhaling harmful substances in various workplaces. There is a diverse range of RPE available, each designed to provide varying levels of protection based on the nature of the hazards present.

  • Disposable masks come in many forms and types, and is classified as FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3. FFP stands for Filtering Facepiece, and the numbers indicate the level of filtration efficiency. Typically these masks are disposed of after one shift. (Unless stated otherwise).
  • Half Face Masks are reusable and use filters ranging from P1-P3, and this includes gas and vapour type filters. P stands for particulate.
  • Full Face Masks offer comprehensive coverage of the face and provide additional protection for the eyes. They come in various configurations, with the level of protection determined by the type of filters used.
  • Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR) represent a step further in respiratory protection. These devices deliver filtered air into a hood or mask, providing a constant supply of clean air. PAPRs are often chosen for extended periods of use and in situations where the removal of facial hair is not possible.

Please note, this is a very brief guide, and more RPE types are available in the HGS 53.

The HSG 53, the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance document on Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work, is crucial. HSG 53 provides comprehensive information on the selection, use, and maintenance of RPE. It outlines the legal requirements and offers practical guidance to ensure that the right RPE is chosen for specific workplace conditions. Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide (hse.gov.uk).

To further support the selection of RPE, try using the Healthy Working Lives RPE sector tool which is free to use RPE selector tool – Resources – Healthy Working Lives – Public Health Scotland.


Types of Fit Testing Methods:

Fit testing methods, crucial for ensuring the efficacy of RPE, come in two primary forms. Quantitative Fit Testing involves numerical measurements to assess the actual amount of mask leakage, providing a precise evaluation of performance (Use of a Portacount). In contrast, Qualitative Fit Testing relies on the subjective assessment of the wearer and includes taste of a bitter or sweet solution to challenges the adequacy of the seal. face fit testing processes are covered within the INDG 479. Guidance on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) fit testing – INDG479 (hse.gov.uk)


  Clean Shaven Policy and Research:

A clean-shaven policy, where masks contact the face, is imperative to mitigate the risk of compromised seals due to facial hair. Research consistently underlines the correlation between facial hair and poor face seal, reinforcing the critical nature of adhering to clean-shaven protocols for optimal respiratory protection. Fit testing basics – Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) (hse.gov.uk)


Employers are required to keep comprehensive records. This record-keeping process is integral for tracking and ensuring ongoing compliance. Fit Testing records, PPE registers and PUWER inspections records should be maintained.


 HSE Dust Buster and Enforcement Risks:

The HSE Dust Buster campaign spearheaded by the Health and Safety Executive serves as a proactive initiative, raising awareness and enforcing control measures in industries with elevated risks of respiratory diseases. Non-compliance with established controls, incorrect usage of RPE, and the absence of face fit testing can result in enforcement, via improvement or prohibition notices.


 EH40 for Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL):

The EH40 document provides the most up-to-date workplace exposure limits (WEL) for various substances. It serves as a vital resource, guiding employers in the ongoing task of assessing and controlling exposure to hazardous substances. EH40/2005 Workplace exposure limits (hse.gov.uk)


FIT2FIT Scheme:

Fit2Fit is a certification scheme and competency standard designed to evaluate and validate the competency of those responsible for conducting face fit testing of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE). Fit2Fit accreditation is awarded to organisations or individuals who have successfully demonstrated their competence in carrying out quantitative or qualitative face fit testing. The certification process involves an assessment of the tester’s knowledge, skills, and understanding of the relevant standards and protocols. We always recommend using FIT2FIT accredited centres when outsourcing face fit testing.

The scheme is not compulsory and employers are free to take other actions to comply with the law. (Source: INDG 479).

Testing and Training:

PGL Midlands can support all forms of testing and training in regards to RPE. With extensive experience, qualifications (Inc FIT2FIT) and a demonstrable history within RPE, testing and training, we offer both Qualitative and Quantitative testing, train the tester courses and on site testing for your teams.

Course summary –

Our face Fit Train the Tester course will enable you to conduct face fit testing internally for all employees.



Prioritising respiratory safety within the workplace involves a multifaceted approach, encompassing an understanding of legislation, fit testing implementation, and engagement with your workforce as early as possible.

Please note, this is a short introductory Blog and therefore does not contain every single piece of information that may be needed to gain a full understanding of this subject. However, most links contained within this Blog will provide more detailed information. Should you have any questions, please do call us on 0121 240 0375.