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For contractors who regularly find themselves working on building sites and/or within buildings undergoing major refits or large refurbishments (including mezzanine floor installations) it is important that both they and their employers adhere to the Health and Safety Legislation in respect to the use and fit of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).

What do we mean by Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)?

When we talk about RPE, we are referring to a tight-tight fitting face piece such as:

  • Full face mask
  • Half mask or
  • Filtering face piece (commonly referred to as a disposable mask)

Selected RPE must be adequate and suitable for the task

It is vital that the selected RPE is adequate and suitable for the work to be carried out, as the RPE is expected to reduce exposure as low as reasonably practical, and in all cases to an acceptable level (e.g below any applicable Workplace Exposure Limits or Control Limits).

To ensure that all contractors have selected RPE that has the potential to provide adequate protection for individual wearers, various regulations including:

  • The Approved Codes of Practice supporting Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
  • Control of Asbestos Regulations
  • Control of Lead at Work Regulations

all stipulate that tight-fitting RPE must be fit tested as part of the process, helping to ensure that inadequately fitting face pieces are not selected for use.

What does face fit testing involve?

Contractors attend a face fit testing session with a registered organisation such as a Health and Safety Consultant, who will test each individual with a selection of RPE to ensure each face piece is tight fitting.

It’s also interesting to note that although the presence of facial hair in the region of the face seal will significantly reduce the protection provided, neither employers or H&S consultants carrying out the test, can demand an individual shaves their beards off. Fortunately for Cubex, all our “on site” employee contractors have smooth baby faces so we know their RPE fits very nicely indeed :)

On completion of the face fit testing each individual receives a certificate so say they have been fitted with that particular item of RPE.

Mason Whiting, our Site Manager being face fit tested for a full face mask RPE at Sphere RHSM Ltd, our H&S partners

Mason Whiting, our Site Manager being face fit tested for a full face mask RPE at Sphere RHSM Ltd, our H&S partners


Why is face fit testing so important?

There are two main reasons contractors must pass face fit testing for RPE:

1) Safety and protection to the wearer

Because ill-fitting face pieces can create inward leakages of airborne contaminants and dusts, the performance of these types of face pieces, relies heavily on the quality of fit of the face piece (ie RPE) to the wearer’s face. An inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer.

2) Staying on the right side of the Health and Safety Executive

Having contractors on site who fail to provide evidence of face fit testing for their selected RPE is a breach of current Health & Safety legislation and leaves the sub-contractor liable to action by the Health & Safety Executive – including Intervention Fees charged at £124 per hour*.

In summary

Cubex Contracts requires all our contractors and sub-contractors to provide evidence of face fit testing for their operatives who wear dust masks or similar, even if they are disposable and only worn occasionally, for their own protection and ours, when it comes to keeping the Health & Safety Executive happy too.

It also means that our customers know that when we are on site we take the matter of Health and Safety and our responsibility as the Principle Contractor or Contractor employer very seriously indeed.

If you would like to talk to us about an office refurbishment, complete fit out or installation of a mezzanine call us today on 01933 460422 or email sales@cubexcontracts.com

If you’d like to know more about face fit testing for your contractors, and meeting your H&S obligations as an employer – we recommend you contact our Health and Safety Partners, Sphere RHSM Ltd on 01733 286070, or email steve@sphererhsm.co.uk

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*correct at the time of writing – December 2015