Important information regarding HSE spot checks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are currently visiting businesses undertaking unannounced spot checks in regards to DUST and RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) masks, taking relevant action (by way of fines) where necessary. Inspectors are currently undertaking checks to ensure businesses have measures in place to protect their workers’ lungs from the likes of wood dust, silica and asbestos.

  • Is your site ready for a health inspection?

The HSE will be specifically looking for evidence of businesses and their workers being aware of the risks, planning their work accordingly, and using the correct controls.

  • Are your operatives wearing the correct mask? If so, have they been ‘Face Fitted’ by a reputable & competent provider?

Recent HSE Case Studies

An installation & landscaping contractor: £23,000 in fines & costs

The HSE has prosecuted a company for failing to provide adequate control measures to prevent exposure to crystalline silica – which can lead to severe and life-threatening respiratory problems.

An NAS Member: An Associate Member of the NAS recently contacted NAS House in regards to a recent HSE visit, which was undertaken as part of their #Dustbuster campaign. In this instance, the dust observed was sawdust from a machine saw with an extractor, and as with every HSE visit there was advice and action points. Our Member contacted our Training Manager, Lorraine, for assistance. Subsequently all points from the visit were actioned/remedied accordingly, namely advice regarding Face Fit as hand-held tool trimming operations were closely observed (as they can produce a fair quantity of dust) requiring the operative to wear the relevant mask, and ensure it is ‘Face Fitted’.

The HSE also reviewed CoSHH (Regulation 11 – Health Surveillance). The Member was asked to provide evidence of health surveillance for employees who are liable to be exposed to a substance hazardous to health, namely wood dust. The likelihood of surveillance is likely to be low but nevertheless, needs to be assessed. Please follow this link for further info – “Wood dust – What you need to know”.

RPE (Masks)
There are various types of masks with various ratings. Are you using the correct mask for the job? You can find out more information from the HSE here: .

Different masks provide different levels of protection, so it’s important to find the right level of protection for your workplace. The ‘EN 149’ standard designates three dust mask ratings; FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3.

Mask Rating Operation/Task Protects against Will protect against materials in concentrations up to:
FFP1 hand sanding, drilling, & cutting LOW levels of dust, as well as solid and liquid aerosols. 4x occupational exposure limit (OEL) or4x assigned protection factor (APF). 
FFP2   plastering and sanding MODERATE levels of dust, as well as solid and liquid aerosols. 12x OEL or 4x APF. 
FFP3 handling hazardous powders and protecting against solid & liquid aerosols HIGH levels of dust. 50x OEL or 20x APF.


RPE (Face Fit)

There are two means of formal testing, both of which should only be performed by competent testers. The type of test that you choose will depend on your equipment and environment.

(1) Qualitative (subjective method)
This is a pass/fail test based on the wearer’s subjective assessment of seal quality i.e possible leakage from the face seal region, by sensing the introduction of a test agent (typically a bitter or sweet tasting aerosol).
These tests are suitable for disposable masks and half masks.

(2) Quantitative (measurable method)
Designed to protect workers from harmful chemicals and dust, this test is not reliable on the person, but instead uses methods such as particle counting to effectively measure the quality of the seal. The wearer is required to partake in exercises that will simulate normal work practices to check the validity of the seal. The tester will then measure the number of particles that enter the mask at this time, comparing it to the number of particles which are challenging it.

Competent Testers

The Face Fit test should be carried out in accordance with the protocols in INDG479 and must be carried out by a competent person. Lorraine has advised the most appropriate way to ensure competence is to choose a provider from the ‘fit2fit’ accreditation scheme. You can find them here: Fit 2 Fit accredited providers.

Lorraine will gladly assist in helping our members locate a tester at competitive prices. For further information please do not hesitate to contact Lorraine at / 01883 624961.