It goes without saying that for RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) to be effective it must be face fitted to prevent leakage.
You may be surprised to know that in the recent HSE Report RR1052 into the effect of wearer stubble on the protection given by Filtering Facepieces Class 3 (FFP3) and Half Masks that are in common use by the construction industry that for some users the effectiveness was compromised with only 24 hours of stubble growth . Three types of FFP3 masks with different materials forming the faceseal (the part of the facemask designed to be in contact with the face) and two types of half facemask were tested across a batch of 15 volunteers. The results were varied as can be seen from the report which can be downloaded at http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr1052.pdf
This research reinforces the existing HSE guidance (including COSHH ACoP para. 160) which states that ” In selecting and providing suitable
RPE, consider the proper training and supervision of employees in its use. This will include wearers being clean-shaven in the area of the face seal when
using tight-fitting RPE.” RR1052 also states “This view is also supported in the European Standard EN 529 (annex D.4.2) where “In this context unshaven means hair which has not been shaved within the previous 8 hour period prior to the work shift”
With face fitting being so critical to the effectiveness of RPE , I was drawn to the simplicity of the example on the Constructing Excellence website whereby temporary mask check stations were installed during siteworks (http://ccsbestpractice.org.uk/entries/face-fit-masks/) – a simple but effective way of overcoming the risk of mask leakage for works .
Furthermore perhaps consideration should be given to carrying, shavers as one of my staff did during a recent decontamination project to ensure the best fit possible and thereby making sure your last means of defence remains intact. Why take the risk?