Similar to regular PPE, Respiratory Protective Equipment (or RPE for short) is any facial protective equipment that is designed to protect a person’s airways from harmful airborne contaminants.

To rightfully delegate your staff this PPE, you must understand the correct respiratory protection ratings for your workplace, you must also ensure it is fit for each user via a face fit test.

What is a Face Fit Test?

A Face Fit Test is a practice and precaution by HSE (Health and Safety Executive) to ensure that Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) can provide adequate protection for every staff member that needs it.

It checks that the mask or respirator fits the persons face correctly, leaving no leaks where contaminated air can get through. This allows the user to choose the correct size of mask for them.

Face Fit Testing must be carried out before the respirator or face mask is worn in a contaminated area with the findings documented.

Why Is Face Fit Testing Important?

Not a day goes by without somebody dying from work-related lung disease.

Having access to the correct dust masks or other respiratory protection has changed the life outlook for millions of workers worldwide, but we still need to do better by ensuring all protection protects. A poorly fitting respirator is no respirator at all.

Hence, we face fit test to ensure the correct size and type of mask is made available to all works.

Who Can Carry Out a Face Fit Test?

Under UK Legislation, a face fit test has to be conducted by a competent person.

A competent person is defined as someone who is appropriately trained, qualified and experienced in doing so. This qualification can be achieved and recognised by accreditation from the Fit2Fit scheme, which was introduced by The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) with support from the HSE.

How Do I Do a Respirator Fit Test?

Once you have selected the protective face mask or respirator you wish to order and have a competent individual to carry out the test, it is time to know how to do one. The Fit Test itself is something that has to be well documented with the necessary details.

A Fit Test can be split into two types: a Qualitative Fit Test (QFT), and a Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT).

Qualitative Fit Test (QFT)

A qualitative fit test may only be used to fit test:-

Air Purifying Respirators that are used in negative pressure. This fit test is on the basis that they will be used in atmospheres where the potential hazard is 10 times the permissible exposure limit (PEL).

Tight fit face protection with powered and atmosphere-supplying respirators.

The QLFT results are split into either Pass or Fail depending on the subject’s senses/reactions to the following test agents:

Isoamyl acetate (simulates a banana smell); only for testing respirators that utilise organic vapour cartridges.

Saccharin (simulates a sweet taste); can test respirators with a particulate filter of any class.

Bittrex (simulates a bitter taste); can test respirators with particulate filters of any class.

Irritant Smoke (prompts a cough reflex); only for testing respirators with level 100 particulate filters.

If any of the above test agents are detected by the subject, then the respirator will not comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (CoSHH).


To fairly test the above agents, the following seven exercises must be conducted for 1 minute each. The exercises are as follows:-

  • Normal Breathing (1 minute)
  • Deep Breathing (1 minute)
  • Moving head side to side (1 minute)
  • Moving head up and down (1 minute)
  • Bending over, or jogging on the same spot - if the apparatus does not allow bending at the waist (1 minute)
  • Talking (1 minute)
  • Normal Breathing Again (1 minute)
  • Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT)

The more common of the two is the Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT) which is used to fit-test any tight-fitting respirator. It mainly involves using equipment to measure the leakage around the face seal of the breathing apparatus. This test will produce a numerical result defined as a “fit factor” which can be produced from any of the following 3 test protocols:

Generated Aerosol uses a non-hazardous aerosol that is generated within the test chamber (i.e. corn oil).

Condensation nuclei counter (CNC): uses an ambient aerosol and does not require a test chamber to be used.

Controlled negative pressure (CNP): uses a test that creates a vacuum by temporarily cutting off air/oxygen.

The Quantitative Fit Test uses the same seven exercises that the Qualitative Fit Test uses with the addition of a ‘grimace’ test which involves the subject smiling or frowning for 15 seconds to test the integrity of the facial seal.

Whilst the Qualitative Fit Test is Pass or Fail, the Quantitative Fit Test is graded on achieving a minimum threshold. The threshold for half-mask respirators is a minimum fit factor of 100, whereas for full-mask respirators it is 500.

Our parent company can carry out training for you to be a qualified Fit Tester or can carry out the Face Fit Tests either on site or at our premises in Nottingham. For all your face mask requirements look no further than the team at PPE Stores. Call us today on 0115 952 3096 or email us at

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