Posted at 08-Apr-2020

Correct fitting equals correct breathing

Paul Skade
By Jon Whitehouse
Director, Industrial MRO and Safety

Having started in the Electrical industry in 1995 my early career developed holding a variety of roles from technical support through to business development with...

Read full bio

Let’s begin with a daunting statistic… official figures have suggested that illness is the biggest cause of lost days in the workplace, and respiratory disease dominates the list of reported issues. In fact, it accounts for 99% of all workplace deaths.


As its name suggests, PPE is designed to combat potential health problems, protect workers from harm, and ultimately, save lives. But you wouldn’t believe how many employees – across all industries, particularly industrial manufacturing where risks are amplified – are unaware of how to correctly fit critical PPE, with respiratory equipment falling into this category more than most.

Selecting and specifying the correct equipment is the first step to ensuring safe operation, but we understand that you may be overwhelmed by the shear amount of PPE available on today’s market.

Here are four simple questions that you should ask yourself before operating using any PPE:

  • What are the hazards?
  • What are the risks?
  • Which PPE should I be using?
  • Am I wearing it correctly?


Fit for purpose?

Fit validation is designed to assist PPE wearers in selecting the right product and appropriate size, and train users in correct usage to ensure maximum protection levels, dependant on the task in hand. But we mustn’t forget that fit validation can be applied to all items of PPE, not just respiratory equipment.


We all have individual facial features and bone structures; therefore, fit testing is particularly important. It’s a simple way to check that, in this instance, a respiratory facepiece fits correctly. The performance of critical PPE, such as respiratory devices, hinges on its sealing properties, and is the only way to guarantee maximum protection from airborne contamination.

TIP: CLICK HERE to see Honeywell's 5 easy steps to fitting a single use face mask.

Check or Test?

Fit validation comes in two forms; Fit Test or Fit Check. But they have their differences. A ‘Fit Check’ is conducted by the user each time they use a piece of PPE, referencing guidance from instruction manuals provided by the manufacturer.

This method is used to ensure that critical PPE such as respiratory masks are correctly positioned on the wearer, and responsibility lies solely with the user.

A ‘Fit Test’ on the other hand is to be conducted each time a new model of PPE is introduced, and tests are to be undertaken by a ‘competent person’ selected by the company. Here, employers take full responsibility.

Results of fit/check tests are also determined using two methods; Qualitative, with pass or fail criteria based on the users individual response; and Quantitative, where the information generated retrieves a numerical value which determines the overall performance and protection level of a device, dependant on the associated hazards. For example, the required level of performance of a respiratory device in a steelworks will be different to that in a chemical facility.


To help us clearly understand the requirements of PPE fitting and testing, HSE 282/28 provides extensive information on how the Health and Safety Executive expect testing to be conducted.

Our health and safety in the workplace remain a concern for all employer and employees worldwide, but only by adhering to the strict guidelines set by HSE and deploying the correct PPE will we be effectively safeguarded from harm.

To discuss your options in more detail, please call one of our Industrial MRO & Safety specialists on 0121 508 6000.

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