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Is Face Fit Testing A Legal Requirement?

Yes, face fit testing is a legal requirement for anyone who wears a tight (or close) fitting mask for work. Industry Guidance 479 (INDG479) issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states.

“To ensure that the selected RPE has the potential to provide adequate protection for individual wearers, the Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) supporting the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), the Control of Lead at Work Regulations, the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Confined Spaces Regulations and the Ionising Radiations Regulations stipulate that tight-fitting RPE should be fit tested as part of the selection process.”

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How does this translate to real life?

Well, you may be surprised to learn that in the last financial year the HSE issued fines totalling £72.6 million to UK businesses. The average penalty was a hefty £147,000.

Now we aren’t suggesting that this level of fine would be applied to an organisation not complying with the requirements for face fit testing, however you should be aware they can be significant.

On the 23rd March 2018 a company in Lancashire was caught cutting flagstones, their employees hadn’t been face fit tested. They were fined £20,000 with costs of £3,000.

It’s worthwhile looking at the statistics that cover enforcement, in the last year over 11,500 Improvement & Prohibition Notices were issued by the HSE. Our experience visiting clients confirms this; we regularly attend sites to carry out face fit testing as a result of HSE action.

A contractor in Salford received a 26 week prison sentence (suspended for two years), 180 hours of community service and a fine of £2,000 for failing to protect workers from silica dust & falls from height during re-pointing work.

Have you heard of the ‘Fee for Intervention’ (FFI)?

Many business have been faced with a FFI, this is a charge made up of an hourly rate for an Inspectors time investigating minor breaches. The hourly rate jumped by 20% from £129 per hour to £154 per hour on the 6th April 2019.

The average bill is over £700, this is a significant cost for a small business. We also have to bear in mind the contractor will still have to pay for their employees to be face fit tested.

Work-related respiratory disease covers a range of illnesses that are caused or made worse by breathing in substances that damage the lungs such as dusts, fumes and gases. The most prevalent of these diseases are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and silicosis.

These conditions have a devastating effect on both the individual and their families. They can also be extremely costly for employers found to be negligent.

Overall there are currently 12,000 deaths each year due to occupational respiratory diseases. That’s 33 people per day losing their lives because of exposure to preventable respiratory hazards at work.

In addition to this already frightening number, there are about 35,000 people who worked in the last year, and 130,000 who had ever worked who believe their breathing or lung problems were caused or made worse by work. We all know someone who has worked in a dusty industry and feels breathless with even relatively minor exertion.

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