PPE has become one of the most talked about things across the UK recently. Whether from visors to protective aprons, PPE is a vital component to keeping our country safe during Covid-19 and indeed, after. With so many options available to us all it’s really important to know that what we are using is the right type of PPE so we thought we’d take a look at face masks and try and drill down into what the different types do what WHO have to say on the subject.

To most people a mask is a mask and we wish that were true but there is more to masks than meets the eye. Some of these masks look very similar but they are different. The subtle variations will make the difference for your customers so knowing which is which is important. There are various pieces of legislation to consider when looking at PPE masks. The European Standards EN 14683:2019 set, well, the standards, for face mask requirements in surgical masks that were designed to limit the transmission of fluids and other bacteria between patients and staff. 3 test methods were created to maintain the standards which you can read about here.  Another European standard to be aware of when considering the masks you purchase should be European Standards EN 149 + A1:2009 which relates specifically to respiratory masks, you can read more on the requirements hereMaking sure you invest in the correct masks with the correct statutory and legal requirements will help maintain standards and safety within your environments as well as providing your customers with peace of mind in unsettling times.

Masks Options Simplified

3 Ply Surgical Face Masks

Type I

  • Loose fitting.
  • Suitable for wearing when not in close contact with other people.
  • Bacteria filtering effectiveness > 95%
Type II

 

  • Loose fitting.
  • Suitable for wearing when not in close contact with other people.
  • Bacteria filtering effectiveness > 98%

Type IIR

  • Fluid-repellent 
  • Should be worn when coming into contact with other people.
  • Provides protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of fluids.
    Protects the patient from the wearer’s respiratory emissions.
  • Loose fitting.
  • Bacteria filtering effectiveness > 98% and splash-resistant

Respiratory Protective Face Masks

  • Should be worn when coming into contact with other people.
  • Fluid-repellent.
  • Provides protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays or fluids.
  • Protects the patient from the wearer’s respiratory emissions.
  • Loose fitting.
  • Bacteria filtering effectiveness > 98% and splash-resistant
  • Need to conform to EN 149 standards

 

Some concerns that others may have come across

There are many masks in the marketplace currently and due to high demand a lot of these have been pushed into the market without the correct specification and testing.  For clarity, you must ensure that the masks you are using/buying conform to the correct European Standards which currently cover UK.  If in doubt make sure you ask your supplier for the certificates.  Many masks have been tested to Asian or American standards but these are not always comparable.  In particular the KN95 standard is not equal to the FFP2 European standard.  Although the same tests are done the results need to be a higher standard to meet the FFP2 which is suitable for the UK market.

General advice on masks

  • Try to avoid touching the mask while wearing it but if you do be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do not wash the mask.
  • If you reused your mask (according to manufacturers guidelines and time limits) be aware that you should replace as soon as it shows signs of deformation or disrepair.
  • If a mask becomes contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions, or other bodily fluids it removed and disposed of properly. During disposal, avoid touching the mask and wash hands thoroughly afterward.
  • Ensure you know the mask you are using meets European Standards.

The WHO offer more through support on their website and downloads. We found both of the below very helpful.

WHO – COVID-19 Guidance to wearing and removing PPE PDF

WHO – Advice on the use of masks

STS offer a range of masks and ensure they conform to the correct standards.  Certification and advice on how to wear is available on request.

The above advice was written on 29th April and is subject to change and further guidance.