As clients return to their workplaces the issues of personal protection will arise and a significant number of clients will have instances where face coverings or true PPE will be required and we are now seeing large amounts of KN95 face masks. Suppliers have been quick to spot this and many new entrants have come into the market supplying whatever they can find for sale leading to the supply of equipment which CANNOT be considered as suitable PPE.
In more normal times you would rely on people you trust as suppliers and take your time to select equipment which you know will work as expected. In the current climate this will not always be possible so please make sure you know what you’re buying and if it will truly protect your staff.
NOTE: the comments below are applicable to using these masks as a Filtering Face Piece (FFP) item of Personal Protective Equipment. This is an instance where you expect the mask to protect the wearer from the environment (rather than protecting the environment from the wearer. Use cases where this low qualify masks might be used could be as per basic face coverings.
KN95 face masks: a standard which you should not trust
What is KN95? Its a standard commonly used by Chinese manufacturers and broadly similar to our own FFP2 type face masks. In itself it’s not bad, it roughly follows the recognised American standard N95 which denotes masks which filter out 95% of airborne particulate of 0.3 microns and above. Whilst COVID-19 has particle sizes smaller than the 0.3 microns of the standard a good quality mask from a know western manufacturer doesn’t simply stop at the 0.3-micron limit – it remains effective with tests of 3M masks showing them effective at particle sizes far smaller than the 0.14 to 0.06 microns which have been reported as typical for COVID-19.
However, we are talking about an N95 mask from a well-recognised manufacturer. NOT a mask with KN95 which has been manufactured in a hurry to meet western demand by a company you don’t know. Further, the KN95 Chinese standard is self-certified. What does that mean? Well, you just make them and tell everyone that you’ve done a good job… hardly a recipe for consistently high standards. HSE has commented that the majority of paperwork accompanying these masks is either faked or fraudulent. HSE have stopped over 25 million items of this type of mask entering the UK supply chain but more are being shipped each day.
HSE issue Safety Alert
For more detail on why you should avoid any mask marked as KN95 for when selecting PPE please read the HSE’s Safety Alert here; https://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/use-of-face-masks-designated-kn95.htm
Incidentally, if you are asking staff to wear facemasks then please take a look at how you correctly fit them. Take a look at HSE’s poster on wearing FFPs: https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/disposable-respirator.pdf