Train The Trainer
How Do I Do A Face Fit Test?
Face fit testing is a bit of an art, whilst the basic premise of putting a hood over the mask wearers head and spraying a leak detector in with them is often understood, some of the subtleties that go along with this slightly humorous test are often missed.
We have taken our time to prepare this thorough guide that takes you through the ins and outs of not only doing face fit tests, but also gives you an understanding of many other important things we need to be aware of when doing qualitative face fit tests.
Carrying out the 7-minute Qualitative Face Fit Test
Following on from our guide on undertaking a sensitivity test we are now ready to look at the face fit test itself.
Firstly, we also want to ensure we are in a well-ventilated environment (not outside), especially so if we plan on doing more than one test in the location. The strong test solution we will use now can quickly overcome a small room and thus easily foul the palate of following candidates.
Manage this problem in a small area by ensuring all candidates wear their masks after the sensitivity testing has been done until their face fit test has been completed. Also, turning off air-conditioning and opening opposing windows/doors helps promote a through-flow of air.
Having two rooms available so actual tests can be done in a separate environment also helps, this is also beneficial for avoiding unnecessary distractions whilst testing from those waiting!
Our test will involve our subject being in the hood for 7-minutes so it’s a good idea to ensure they aren’t overdressed, it gets hot inside the hood and we want to try and ensure they are as comfortable as possible.
Prior to beginning they need to have put the mask on and had the fitment checked by you, once happy we can start the test when they have worn the mask continuously for a minimum of 5-minutes, this helps to solve any comfort issues and it also allows masks that may be cold to warm up and adapt to the face.
For the face fit test, we move to our Test Solution (10 times more concentrated) so that any air bypassing the masks filters will be strong enough to be tasted by our subject. Carry out one last check that your subject isn’t experiencing any residual taste from the sensitivity test.
The face fit test works by us continually checking whether our subject is able to taste the test solution we spray into their hood during the 7-minute test, so long as our subject doesn’t detect the solution at all, a pass will be achieved.
During the test the amount of test solution we spray into the hood is defined by this particular subject’s response to the sensitivity solution but in general, we spray test solution into the hood at the start of each minute-long exercise and we also spray test solution into the hood at the half-way point of each minute.
The very first minute uses a different amount at the start to that used at the half-way point but all the other ‘minutes’ use the same number of sprays at the beginning and the midpoint.
The reason for this is initially we are ‘loading’ the atmosphere in the hood; we are taking it from containing only the ambient air in the room to a controlled testing environment and as such we use either 10, 20 or 30 sprays of test solution based on the sensitivity test. We then drop to half that initial number of sprays, each 30 seconds that passes, for the remainder of the test period.
At all times when spraying solution into the hood we ensure an even distribution left-to-right by mixing up the direction we spray.
As an example, a subject who tasted the sensitivity solution after 14 sprays would receive 20 sprays of test solution at time 0” and then 10 sprays at 30”.
A further 10 sprays would then be added at 1”, 1’30”, 2’, 2’30”, 3’, 3’30”, 4’, 4’30”, 5’, 5’30”, 6’ and 6’30” as we move through the exercises.
At 7 minutes we would ask the subject to break the seal between the mask and the face inside the hood and confirm they are able to taste the solution. This would enable a pass to be recorded.
Exercise 1 (minute 0-1) – Normal Breathing
During this first exercise we are asking the subject to breath in a relaxed fashion through their mouths for a period of one minute.
We ask if they can taste the test solution and a negative response is required to continue.
When there is 10s of this exercise remaining we begin to explain what is required from them in the following minute.
Exercise 2 (minute 1-2) – Deep Breathing
We require slow, deep breaths in and out through the mouth.
We should be careful to explain that we require a full 60 seconds of this and ensure that whilst the breaths are deep, they are not so rapid so as to cause dizziness.
Again, ask if the subject can taste the test solution.
When there is 10 seconds of this exercise remaining explain to the subject what will be required for the following minute.
Exercise 3 (minute 2-3) – Looking side-to-side
Keeping their shoulders still, our subject should turn only their head close to 90 degrees to one side pausing while there to inhale and exhale from the mouth.
Their head should then be rotated fully to the opposing side and again a pause whilst they inhale and exhale at this extreme through the mouth. This movement to each side with a single breath in and out at each side is repeated for the 60 seconds.
Again, when there is 10 seconds of this exercise remaining explain to the subject what will be required for the following minute.
Exercise 4 (minute 3-4) – Looking up and down
Our subject should slowly look up towards the ceiling and once at the high-point pause to inhale and exhale. The head should then be tilted slowly down to the floor and back up to the ceiling upon which another inhalation and exhalation can be done.
This should be repeated slowly throughout the minute. This exercise will highlight a mask that is not ceiling correctly against the chin either by being too large or worn too low on the nose.
Again, introduce the next exercise when there is 10 seconds remaining
Exercise 5 (minute 4-5) – Talking
The subject is required to do one of two different tasks that involve talking aloud in a manner that they can be both clearly heard and understood.
Clear pronunciation is required to satisfy the requirement for us to test that the movement in the mouth from talking is not creating a detectable leak.
The subject can either begin to count backwards from 100 or can read the full version of the ‘Rainbow Passage’.
Exercise 6 (minute 5-6) – Bending forwards at the hips
Here we need to be sure our subject is physically capable of the movement required and that if not they move as far as is comfortable for them.
We ask that they keep their bodyweight centred down through their heels and bend forwards slowly from the waist rising up again to the vertical (prevent them from leaning backwards) having reached their low-point.
A slow rhythm is the key here. It is also important that the hood isn’t going to fall off.
Exercise 7 (minute 6-7) – Normal Breathing as done in the first minute
After the last top-up of test solution has been sprayed at 6’30” we need to loosen the strings on the hood if not using a 3M test kit and prepare the subject for breaking the seal between the mask and their face at 7 minutes exactly.
It is necessary to ensure firstly that our subject isn’t going to attempt to remove the hood and secondly that we strongly advise them to take only a small breath in initially to avoid a shock too severe.
It is mandatory that the solution is tasted without spraying more in for them to be awarded a pass.
Once all these exercises have been completed it is nice to allow the subject a few moments to recover from the experience.
We want to ensure that the mask used (if reusable) is cleaned properly by the user. We can begin to explain that they have passed the test on that particular make, model and size of masks and that they are now restricted to this variant of mask unless the testing process is repeated.
Additionally, they should be made aware of the period after which a retest will be required owing to the ageing process and ensure they know that weight-change, injuries, surgery etc can all invalidate a face fit test.
Finish off recording the test on the test sheet, have the subject sign this and ensure all records will be kept for a minimum of 5-years in line with legal-requirements.
Following the test refill the nebuliser ready for the next test and place the bungs in gently, place the nebuliser down and sit it in a vertical position to prevent leakage. Use an anti-bacterial spray and wipe to clean the inside of the test hood and dry off for the next use.
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