New ISO 16975-3:2017 Standard Gives Guidance On Fit-Testing

11 June 2018
RPE Fit-Testing

It's no surprise that since no two faces are the same, fit-testing is crucial to get right when protecting workers against hazardous fumes and dust.

In fact, the importance of Fit2Fit has been strengthened this year by the introduction of ISO 16975-3:2017.

But what's this standard all about... and what's fit-testing?

In this article, we'll reveal all!

What Is It?

ISO 16975-3:2017 is a new standard designed to give guidance on how to carry out fit-testing of tight-fitting Respiratory Protective Devices (RPD), such as half masks, full masks and filters.

What Is Fit-Testing?

The importance of ISO 16975-3:2017 will be entirely lost if you don't know why fit-testing is so vital. So here's a quick overview.

The idea of fit-testing was initially spearheaded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in their HSE 282/28 Guidance in 2002.

In summary:

"Where RPE is used, it must be able to provide adequate protection for individual wearers. RPE can't protect the wearer if it leaks. A major cause of leaks is poor fit – tight-fitting facepieces need to fit the wearer’s face to be effective.

As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE facepiece will fit everyone. Fit testing will ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer."

- HSE, Fit Testing Basics

However, it was difficult to tell who could fit-test facepieces and masks accurately, so Fit2Fit was introduced in 2011.

This is a competency scheme for Fit Test Providers and has helped drive awareness of the importance of properly fitted Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).

Fit2Fit recommends that when undergoing fit-testing, you ensure the contractor has Fit2Fit accreditation. This proves they've passed an industry recognised exam and demonstrated how to fit-test in one or more test methods.

How Does ISO 16975-3:2017 Make Fit-Testing Clearer?

The new standard specifies requirements for conducting RPD fit-testing, including:

  • Qualifications/competences of fit-test operators
  • Specific fit-testing procedures
  • Interpretation of fit-test results
  • Record keeping

Why All The Fuss About Fit-Testing?

Occupational lung disease continues to be a huge problem for workers across the UK.

According to the latest statistics from HSE:

  • 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are estimated to be linked to past exposures at work
  • 18,000 estimated new cases of breathing or lung problems are caused or made worse by work each year
  • 2,542 mesothelioma deaths in 2015, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past asbestos exposure
  • There are an estimated 200-300 new cases of occupational asthma seen by chest physicians each year
Fit-testing is vital to ensure RPE and RPD performs correctly and offers the wearer maximum protection. The introduction of ISO 16975-3:2017 should help raise awareness of fit-testing and bring down the shocking numbers of occupational lung disease.

Do I Need To Have Fit-Testing Carried Out?

The short answer: Yes.

The long answer: Many people still aren't aware of Fit2Fit, ISO 16975-3:2017, or whether fit-testing is a requirement for them. Not only this, but fit-testing is viewed by some as time-consuming, unnecessary or expensive.

But the fact of the matter is, RPE is an item of personal protective equipment (PPE) and requires proper fit-testing to ensure it gives the best protection.

Not only this, but it's recommended you undergo regular fit-testing once every two years.

Who Can Help?

As a single source safety solution, we're super experienced in organising Fit2Fit accredited training and fit-testing for our clients.

It's the simplest way to get your fit-testing carried out so you can crack on with your work.

Just drop us a line and we'll do the rest!