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Fit testing face masks to avoid transmission during Covid-19

This guidance is in line with Health and Safety Executive guidelines and provides temporary information on fit testing face masks to avoid transmission during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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HSE temporary guidance


Tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable FFP3 masks and reusable half masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. 

This guidance is in line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines and provides temporary information (subject to review) on fit testing face masks to avoid transmission during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will assist departments manage the use of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) in the workplace.

How to fit test during Covid-19 pandemic


Tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable FFP3 masks and reusable half masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. To ensure that respiratory protective equipment (RPE) will protect the wearer:

  • A face fit test should be carried out the first time a worker uses a particular type of respirator.
  • The wearer should carry out a pre-use seal check or fit check, which they should repeat every time they put a respirator on.

When carrying out a face fit test during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, testers and wearers should take additional measures to minimise the risk of transmission.

> Read more about government guidance on staying alert and safe

The user should then carry out a pre-use seal check or fit check. The following poster and video give guidance on how to put on disposable respirators and how to do a pre-use seal check or fit check.

> Read UCL's guidance on using disposable respirators

Minimise the risk of transmission


People who have symptoms of Covid-19 or are isolating in accordance with government guidance should not attend a face fit test.

To minimise the risk of transmission of Covid-19 during face-fit testing the following additional measures should be taken:

  • Fit testers should follow staying alert and safe (social distancing), as they can make observations from this distance and deliver any instructions verbally.
  • Those being fitted should keep their respirators on if closer observation is required to minimise risk to testers
  • Both the fit tester and those being fit tested should wash or sanitise their hands before and after the test in accordance with NHS guidelines
  • Those being fit tested with non-disposable masks should clean the mask themselves before and immediately after the test using a suitable disinfectant cleaning wipe (check with manufacturer to avoid damaging the mask)
  • Test facepieces that cannot be adequately disinfected (e.g. disposable half masks) should not be used by more than one individual
  • Fit testers should wear disposable gloves (single use, splash resistant) when undertaking cleaning of the tubes, hoods etc. and ensure they remove gloves following the correct procedure
  • Immediately dispose of used gloves, disposable masks, cleaning wipes etc in a waste bin

> Download the HSE 'correct removal of gloves' poster

Actions to minimise transmission

Fit testers should familiarise themselves with the following potential contact points and actions to minimise transmission:

Contact pointsAction to minimise transmission
Disposable RPE (mask)Wash or sanitise hands before and after the test in accordance with NHS guidelines
Inside and outside of non-disposable RPE (mask)For non-disposable masks the wearer should clean the inside and outside of the mask using a suitable disinfectant cleaning wipe under the fit tester’s instruction and supervision
Inside and outside (where held) of hood used for qualitative fit testsThe fit tester should clean the inside and outside (where held) of the hood between each test using a suitable disinfectant wipe that will not damage the visor and wearing disposable gloves
FiltersAlthough the wearer's exhaled air does not pass through the filters used when testing half and full facemasks, they may be re-used and handled between tests and so should be wiped using a suitable disinfectant cleaning wipe

Departmental Responsible Persons Register


UCL Departments are required to identify their trained and experienced departmental face-fit testers and record them in the riskNET Departmental Responsible Persons Register. Due to limited on-site availability of face fit testers during COVID-19 pandemic, departments are encouraged to share resources with other departments who may have face fit testers available on site. To identify available FaceFit testers in neighbouring departments, responsible persons should follow the steps: riskNET < Responsible Persons < Analysis Reports < search FaceFit tester

> riskNET (UCL Login required)

Video Tutorial: Access and update Responsible Persons Register in riskNET

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/Ah26g50a

Last updated: Tuesday, March 30, 2021