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The Journal for Employee Protection
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Face Masks and Individual ‘Fit Testing’ Reduces Risks

New initiative reduces risk of dust inhalation


A new personalised ‘fit testing’ procedure, combined with the latest face masks, is helping reduce the risk of dust inhalation for delivery drivers in the biomass wood fuel industry.

And biomass woodfuel distributor Forest Fuels, which has implemented the new initiative, is ensuring that every member of its distribution staff follows the procedure before going out on the road.

The new scheme sees delivery drivers taken through a series of progressive tests that mimic their exact working environment, after being fitted with a mask that has special monitoring sensors. These sensors then feed information back to a central database that analyse the results and shows exactly how well the seal around their mask performs in various situations.

Forest Fuels delivery driver, Dariusz Misiag, who was one of the first members of staff in the UK to be fit tested, said: “I’m exposed to dust particles day-in, day-out. Although I already wore a face mask to filter out the dust particles, I wasn’t aware of how much less effective they are if they are not fitted airtight onto my face. The tests I underwent showed exactly which mask and which size I should be fitted with to ensure that I don’t inhale any dust into my lungs. The testing was very thorough and included me climbing up and down steps, turning my head in various directions, crouching down and up again, bending over repeatedly and counting backwards out loud".

The measures form part of Forest Fuels’ commitment to ensure that staff throughout its UK operations are looked after in every way possible, with an emphasis on safety measures that are specific to each person’s role.

Forest Fuels’ Health, Safety, Quality and Environment (HSQE) manager Mark Close said: "Although Personal Protective Equipment should be the last option when controlling hazards, in the case of the wood dust generated during fuel delivery, it is the only effective and practicable control available. Having identified the requirement to provide this type of protection it is imperative that we provide our employees with the correct type of equipment that fits the individual correctly. Fit testing is specific to both the wearer and the equipment and ensures, when worn correctly, that the respiratory protective equipment provides the correct level of protection against the hazard. This approach, coupled with ongoing health surveillance, will ensure that our employees are adequately protected from the risks associated with the inhalation of wood dust.”

The testing and fitting was carried out by independent environmental test company IESS. The company’s managing director, Johnny Hilton, said: "We quite often get called in to a company after there's already been a serious problem so it's quite refreshing for a business to be taking the proactive approach like this and prevent harm to lungs before it occurs in the first place.”

Main Picture - Courtesy of Forest Fuels.

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Multi-award winning supplier of premium wood pellet and wood chip, fully-funded and maintained commercial biomass installations with no upfront costs, and pioneers of innovative remote fuel usage monitoring systems. Founded in 2006. Woodsure+ and ENplus Trader...