Safety Services


What to expect when having a Face Fit test

This page describes what you can expect when having a Face Fit test of ‘tight-fitting’ respirators such as disposable FFP3 masks and reusable half masks.

What is a Face Fit test?

Face Fit testing is a method of ensuring that a facepiece or mask is tight-fitting and seals adequately to the wearer’s face. The performance of tight-fitting facepieces depends on achieving continuous contact between the wearer’s skin and the seal of the mask. An inadequate fit will significantly reduce the protection provided to the wearer and reduction in protection may lead to immediate or long-term ill-health.

A correct fitting facepiece is vital at all times to prevent exposure and the Face Fit test also provides verification that the wearer can put the facepiece on correctly. 

> How to put on a facepiece or mask

Faces vary significantly in shape and size so it is unlikely that one particular type or size of mask will fit everyone. The Face Fit test will identify whether departmental recommended facepieces are suitable for use by a particular wearer or advise if alternative facepieces need to be researched. 

Types of Face Fit test

The method of Face Fit testing depends on the type of facepiece.

Testing on filtering facepieces (disposable respirators) and reusable half masks are carried out by trained UCL staff, using a qualitative method also known as a taste test. 

Testing on full-face facepieces is carried out by an external contractor, using a quantitative method (portacount). The external contractor is also used if an individual cannot complete the qualitative test because they have no sense of taste.  

Filtering face masks
Filtering face mask - a qualitative method

Full face mask
Half mask - a qualitative method

half masks
Full face mask - a quantitative method

Loose-fitting face coverings, surgical masks and positive pressure RPE such as breathing apparatus do not require Face Fit testing and are outside the scope of the service provided by UCL face fit testers.

Arranging a Face Fit test

Face Fit tests can only be carried out by a trained Face Fit tester. You can find the name of your department's Face Fit testers in the riskNET Responsible Persons Register.

riskNET (UCL Login required)

Each test should take around 30 minutes and is conducted in 2 parts with a short break between each part.

  1. A sensitivity test is taken without the mask to ensure you can taste either bitter or sweet and lasts between 5 to 10 minutes
  2. The mask fit test which ensures that you can carry out common movements while wearing the mask without affecting the seal and lasts 10 minutes

Before the Face Fit test

Before you attend the Face Fit test, please make sure you:

  • Are able to taste either bitter or sweet - if your sense of taste is compromised this test will not be effective
  • Are clean-shaven for the Face Fit test - this includes any hair growth between the skin and the mask seal, such as stubble, beard, moustache or sideburns which cross the respirator seal
  • Have removed any piercing that might stop a facepiece fitting correctly
  • Don’t smoke, eat, chew gum or drink anything (other than water) for the 30 minutes prior to the test
  • Are in good health
  • Bring the facepiece, including any filters if used, that has been provided to you by your department
  • If you normally wear protective goggles or hard hat etc when you wear your facepiece, bring them along with you as you may be asked to wear these during the test

During the Face Fit test

For both parts of the Face Fit test, you will be asked to wear a testing hood over your head. A bitter or sweet spray is then sprayed into the hood.

In part 1, the sensitivity test, you will be asked to indicate when you first notice the taste. In part 2, you will be asked to indicate if you notice the taste.

If you can taste the spray then the facepiece is deemed to be a poor fit but if there is no indication of the taste then the facepiece is deemed suitable. 

A person wearing a facepiece with a testing hood over the top and a bitter or sweet spray is being sprayed into the hood by the face fit tester

Test results

Your tester will let you know immediately if your fit to the facepiece has passed or failed and issue you an individual fit test report by email.

What does a pass mean?

You must wear the make and model of the facepiece you passed testing on whenever required. The pass result is specific to that make and model. If you wish to wear a different type, you must have a Face Fit test with that model. You must keep the fit test report in case of an audit.

What does a fail mean?

You must not wear this model of facepiece. The Face Fit tester will speak to you about alternative models.

Become a Face Fit Test Trainer

If you are interested in becoming a Face Fit Tester, please book our Train the Trainer - Face Fit Tester training course