Respiratory Protective Equipment:

RPE or Respiratory protective equipment is the name given to equipment that will protect the user from certain hazards such as exposure to asbestos, solvents or biological hazards such as COVID-19.

They come in many forms: disposable or reusable, full face or half mask, right up to self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).






When the risk assessment has identified which hazards are present you can then determine which equipment needs to be used. There are tools available which you can use to select RPE and we have added one here.

The tool we have given you the link to was jointly developed by the Health and Safety Executive, NHS Health Scotland and Healthy Working Lives (HWL) based on HSE’s RPE guidance HSG53.

Selected RPE:

Once you have selected the equipment, there is a requirement to have it fitted to the individual.

The reason for this is that you want the equipment to provide proper protection to the wearer and as people have different faces not every piece of RPE will fit every face.

Face Fit Testing:

There are two types of face fit testing; Qualitative and Quantitative.


Qualitative fit testing (QLFT) is a pass/fail test based on the wearer’s subjective assessment of any leakage through the face seal region by detecting the introduction of bitter or sweet-tasting aerosol as a test agent.

QLFT methods are suitable for disposable and reusable half masks – they are not suitable for full-face masks.

Although this type of test is based on subjective detection and response by the wearer of the RPE, it is important that it is administered by a fit tester competent in using this method.


Quantitative fit testing (QNFT) provides a numerical measure of how well a facepiece seals against a wearer’s face, this is called a fit factor. These tests give an objective measure of face fit.

QNFT methods are suitable for disposable and reusable half masks and full-face masks. Examples of QNFT methods are:

  • ambient particle counting
  • controlled negative pressure (CNP)

At Ardua Safety we are able to offer QLFT face fit tests. Please contact us to discuss your requirements or for help with your risk assessments.

You can contact us here.

For further information and guidance, we have added links to various documents below:

INDG479 Guidance on RPE

HSG53 Respiratory protective equipment in the workplace