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Ensure respirators fit properly: that includes bearded hipsters!

Facial hair, including beards, moustaches, sideburns and stubble, will stop a respirator from sealing properly. Workers who are required to wear tightfitting respirators, must be clean-shaven to allow a good seal of the respirator to the face.

Queensland’s work health and safety laws require workers to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, comply with any reasonable instruction, and cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure of the employer relating to health or safety. It may appear a small matter, but work safety should always be taken seriously.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors will take enforcement action if a person conducting a business or undertaking has provided tight-fitting respirators to workers without undertaking fit-testing or where facial hair is likely to prevent the seal of the respirator to the face.

Many common types of respirators are tight-fitting where performance relies on a good seal between the apparatus and the wearer’s face. If there isn’t a good seal, contaminated air will leak into the respirator and the wearer may not get the level of protection that is needed to safe-guard their health.

Fit-testing measures the effectiveness of the seal between the respirator and the wearer’s face. There are two methods:

  • Qualitative, a pass/fail test that relies on the wearer’s ability to taste or smell a test agent - this type of test can be used on half-face respirators.
  • Quantitative - uses specialised equipment to measure how much air leaks into the respirator. This type of test can be used on half-face and full-face respirators. Proven methods of fit-testing are in AS/NZS1715:2009 Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment.

Fit testing must also be carried out by a competent in-house person, manufacturer, supplier or consultant each time a new make or model of respirator is issued and whenever there is a change in the wearer’s facial characteristics or features which may affect the facial seal (e.g. large weight loss or gain).

Fit-testing should be repeated on a regular basis based upon risk assessment (one to two yearly is reasonable).

Note: everyone’s face is a different size and shape so there is no one size fits all. A written record of fit-tests carried out for each worker should be maintained, including:

  • type of test performed
  • make, model, style and size of respirator tested
  • date of the test
  • result of the test.

And don't forget to issue workers with a fit-test record card after fit-testing!

Further information

More information on the Injury Prevention and Management Program is at

Last updated
31 July 2018

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