It takes just 20 minutes to test and kit out a worker with a professionally fitted face mask, yet every day, thousands of construction workers are put at risk of contracting lung disease, breathing in deadly silica dust through poorly fitting respiratory equipment.

During Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November 2015), safety expert Arco joins the fight against lung disease, urging employers to get their workforce ‘face-fit’ tested. Arco will also be donating £3,000 to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to help fund future research.
 
“You wouldn’t submerge a diver under water with a leaking mask, so why do we send construction workers into potentially deadly breathing conditions every day?” says Kevin Williams, Respiratory Services Manager at Arco. “Arco now has the largest mobile Fit2Fit accredited face fit testing team in the UK so can conduct testing on an organisation’s site dramatically reducing the amount of employee down time involved attending a testing centre.”
 
Many construction workers are unaware or ill-informed of its effect on the body. This is partly because many of the symptoms and health conditions that develop as a result of past exposure to construction dust may take several years to develop. As a result, the immediate consequence of potentially harmful workplace exposure levels are often dismissed or underestimated in comparison to the immediate impact of injuries in the workplace. 
 
The most common illnesses linked to breathing construction dust into the lungs include silicosis, lung cancers, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and occupational asthma. Silicosis is a progressive disease where accumulation of respirable crystalline silica particles in the lungs causes an inflammatory reaction, leading to tissue damage and scarring. This can progress, leading to complications that can result in disability or death. COPD, more commonly associated with smoking, is also a significant cause of occupational deaths. Individuals diagnosed with COPD suffer from an obstruction of the airways, which become inflamed and narrowed. Lung function is impaired and affected workers are often diagnosed with work-related emphysema or chronic bronchitis.
 
In 2015, approximately 3,500 will die from cancer caused by past exposures to asbestos, 500 more from silica dust, another 5,500 will be diagnosed with occupational cancer. As members of Fit2Fit, an accreditation scheme set up by the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) to confirm the competency of any person performing face piece fit testing, Arco has helped to protect over thousands of workers in the past 12 months alone.
 
As people’s faces all differ in shape and size, it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face-piece will fit every individual. Face-fit testing checks that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer. Arco conduct training and testing on two methods; quantitative and qualitative, both of which result in matching an individual’s face shape with a compatible mask to ensure that a tight seal is achieved. For disposable and half face masks, the qualitative method can be used, which involves the use of a bitter solution sprayed into a test hood. If the individual can taste the solution, it is deemed as a break in the mask’s seal. The quantitative method is employed for all tight fitting RPE (Disposables, half masks and full face masks) and involves the use of a particle counting machine and probe to measure contamination levels inside the mask compared with the external environment.

For further information or to book face-fit testing, please visit safetyservices.arco.co.uk/