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Face Fit Testing

Under the regulations for COSHH, Control of Asbestos, Control of Lead at Work and the HSG53, all Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) at work requires you to ensure that the selected RPE is adequate and suitable for the wearer, task and environment. To conform and provide evidence, a fit test is required.

If wearing a positive pressure breathing apparatus, studies have shown that during heavy exertion, it is possible for the pressure inside the face piece to momentarily become negative in relation to the outside atmosphere. If the face seal is not adequate this could result in inward leakage of extremely hazardous air.


It is a method for checking that a tight-fitting face piece matches the person's facial features and seals adequately to the wearer’s face. It will also help to identify unsuitable face pieces which should not be used. There are two types of Face Fit Testing, qualitative and quantitative, depending on your requirements, including type of RPE, availability of power, and finally timeframe, will determine which is best suited to you.


Qualitative Face Fit Testing relies on a wearer’s subjective assessment of facial leakage. The method uses a nebuliser of a bitter or sweet tasting substance to challenge the mask’s seal throughout a series of tests. The test takes around twenty minutes and requires the user to wear a hood over their head and shoulders. The user will put on the RPE and secure it in position, then the hood will be fitted over their head and once in place, the bitter or sweet substance will be sprayed into the hood throughout the various exercises. If the substance is not tasted or smelt then the Face Fit Test has been successful, if it is tasted or smelt the RPE will be adjusted and the test repeated. Qualitative face fit testing can only be carried out on half masks and disposable masks.


Quantitative face fit testing can give an objective assessment of facial fit and provides a direct numerical result called a fit factor. The Portacount machine measures the number of ambient particles inside and outside a face piece and proves a numeric result which is a ratio of the two over a given period. The mask is attached to the Portacount and the user completes a variety of exercises whilst stepping on an aerobics step.  If the user successfully achieves a pass on each exercise at the end of the test a fit test report/certificate is produced.


No other method can quantitatively test all types of respirators - SCBA masks, full face respirators, half face respirators or even disposable respirators. If the mask requires fit testing then our Fit2Fit accredited technician using a PortaCount Pro+ fit test machine provides the fastest and easiest approved fit test method. Self-contained breathing apparatus users who rely on their positive pressure mask to keep them alive require a quantitative fit test.


ESS is able to carry out Face Fit Testing on-site. Our Fit2Fit accredited respiratory support experts will ensure that the test is carried out correctly and a report is generated detailing the fit test results.


Basic Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) User Training

The aim of this training course is to provide delegates with the knowledge and understanding required to safely select, use and store RPE. This training course enables first time users to confidently handle equipment in accordance with current regulations.

To find out more about this course, click here.

Qualitative Train the Tester Course

This training course is for delegates who have experience with RPE or who have attended a basic RPE training course and are required on behalf of their company to be able to perform in-house Face Fit Testing.

To find out more about this course, click here.

Quantitative Train the Tester Course

This training course is for delegates who have experience with RPE or who have attended a basic RPE training course and are required on behalf of their company to be able to perform in-house Face Fit Testing using a portacount machine.

To find out more about this course click here.


Face Fit Testing is required for all of the following types of RPE masks:

  • Disposable half masks
  • Re-usable filter or cartridge half masks
  • Full face filter or cartridge masks
  • Escape set masks SCBA masks


It is a requirement that customers being tested with tight fitting RPE must be clean shaven to ensure an accurate fit test. Facial hair/stubble can allow enough space for contaminated air to fit through the seal and therefore allowing the user to inhale it. For customers that do not wish to be clean shaven or cannot shave for medical and religious reasons, alternative forms of RPE are available upon request.

HSE research shows that protection is significantly reduced after 24hrs from clean shaven. More information can be found at:

ESS is a proud supporter of the Breathe Freely campaign.