Jennifer Eaton updates Aberdeenshire businesses on how keeping staff safe from dust requires more than providing a mask, as HSE inspectors continue a Dust Campaign throughout 2024 by unannounced visits.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, the employer has to provide PPE that is fit for purpose, and that includes respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).

Chronic respiratory illnesses from dust particles cost employers and the NHS millions of pounds a year in treatment and lost days.

Jennifer states “Fit testing is important to ensure RPE has maximum impact to each individual employee and the compatibility of it with other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) they may wear” as she shares the key points of the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) RR1194 Research Report.

The RR194 Research Reports “Respirators are used across a wide range of industries and are devices designed to protect the wearer from inhaling hazardous substances, such as airborne dusts and pathogens. These should not be confused with face coverings or fluid-resistant surgical masks, which are used for a different purpose and are not required to be tight fitting. Tight fitting filtering facepiece (FFP) respirators rely on a tight seal between the respirator and the wearer's face to provide respiratory protection, forcing breathed air through a filter to remove harmful substances before inhalation.

Tight fitting respirators such as these, are required in Great Britain (GB), to be face-fit tested. This is a method of checking that a tight fitting facepiece matches the wearer’s facial features and seals adequately to their face. During the CV-19 pandemic a style of CE-marked respirator, with ear loops, appeared on the market as a FFP respirator. This report describes a study on the protection provided to wearers of CE marked FFP respirators with ear loops, by measuring face fit. Ninety quantitative face fit tests were undertaken on nine different models of respirator obtained from a number of manufacturers. Ten different test volunteers were included to cover different face sizes, both male and female. Out of the ninety tests, only two tests had overall fit factors which achieved the pass rate of 100. The findings also showed that the ear loop straps failed to provide adequate tension to securely hold the respirator in place. This lack of tension, combined with the fit of the nose clip around the wearer’s nose, resulted in visibly large gaps around this area. Test volunteers reported that the respirators fitted too loosely on their faces, and they detected substantial leakage of air, mainly due to the lack of tension provided by the ear loop straps. The results of this research led to the publication of the HSE safety notice: “Ear loop respirators/masks do not provide protection as tight fitting RPE”.”

This test is required for every type of mask the wearer uses, so if an employer changes the manufacturer, then they need to carry out a Face Fit Test on the new units in use.

Jennifer stated “Aberdeenshire businesses are constantly striving for excellence in compliance and ensuring employee safety. Therefore it is important to highlight the importance of the HSE fit testing guidance after the results found from the HSE R1194 Research Report”

Jennifer went on “It is imperative that I make Chamber Members aware of these new findings to ensure that businesses are equipped with knowledge and tools to protect their employees“

Many employers recognise the importance of good quality RPE and are now spending more money on better quality dust masks, but then don’t understand they need to ensure they are adequate for each user.

As she continues to support businesses to promote best Health and Safety practice, and promote health and safety for Aberdeenshire businesses, Jennifer signposts Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber Members to the HSE website for further information.

There is a page set up on for Chamber Members to download the HSE guidelines along with other valuable information.


Tel: 0333 33 55 102

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