To attain maximum efficacy of your PPE, it is essential that it is worn correctly. Essential protective equipment, like masks, can only be successful if the wearer understands the protective qualities and limitations of the mask.

The protective qualities of a mask will differ depending on the type of mask worn, and with such a variety of masks on the market it may be difficult to know which mask is right for your people. CHARNAUD® produces certified FFP2 and KN95 respirator masks that are impenetrable to almost 100% of particles of 0.3 microns or larger, making it suitable for a number of industries.

How Face Masks Work to Protect

Viruses are spread by respiratory droplets that are expelled by the mouth and nose and are propelled into the air when a person breathes, speaks or sneezes. While cloth masks may offer a superficial barrier between the wearer and the respiratory droplets, they are not impenetrable to viruses. Respiratory droplets which are expelled into the air will eventually settle on fomites like clothing, utensils, furniture and other surfaces. A virus cannot spread on its own and needs a human to transfer it, from a fomite into the human body, via the primary infection routes of the mouth, nose and eyes.

Respiratory viruses like Covid-19 have an untold human and economic cost. The outbreak of a virus can shut down a business for a period of time resulting in a loss of income. For this reason, it is important that employers ensure their people are properly protected. Masks are one item / article in the arsenal of infection control measures, with successful infection control happening when people wear the appropriate PPE in the correct way. A mask provides a barrier which helps to reduce the spread of a virus, and evidence shows that wearing a mask over the nose and mouth helps to reduce the dispersion of infection-carrying respiratory droplets. While wearing a cloth mask is important in the fight against the spread of viruses, the mask itself does not have any protective qualities, but rather limits the wearer from touching their nose or mouth. Masks with valves may appear to have better protective qualities than cloth masks, however this is an incorrect assertion. Valve masks can prove to be hazardous because of their design as the valve releases a concentration of respiratory droplets into the air. Surgical masks are essential PPE which should be reserved for medical professionals, healthcare workers and first-responders. These masks are designed for situations where the wearer is constantly exposed to pathogens and contaminants. Made from melt-blown and spun-bond materials, surgical masks provide better filtration than cloth masks but are not 100% effective in stopping exposure to pathogens. Surgical masks are affixed over the nose and mouth with ear loops or head loops, neither of which creates an adequate seal around the nose and mouth. In order for healthcare workers to be suitably protected, a surgical mask must be worn in conjunction with medical-grade PPE.

Read Next: Your Head to Foot Arc Flash Safety Checklist

CHARNAUD® Face Masks

FFP2, KN95 and N95 respirator masks are named according to their country of certification, their classification and their level of particulate filtration. Respirator masks should bear their classification in an easy-to-read format on the mask. “FFP” stands for ‘filtering facepiece’ and “2” indicates that the mask filters up to 94% of particles of at least 0.3 microns. All FFP2 respirator masks are certified according to the European standard, EN 149. The key difference between the KN95 and N95 respirator masks is their country of certification; “N” indicates the mask is certified according to the US standard, NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and “KN” indicates that it is certified in accordance with the Chinese standard. The number “95” on the KN95 respirator mask informs the wearer that the mask filters up to 95% of particles of at least 0.3 microns. Over and above their ability to filter up to 95% of all particles of 0.3 microns and larger, a significant proportion of the effectiveness of respirator masks is due to the seal it creates when worn. The shape of the FFP2 and KN95 masks, along with the head loops, serve to create a seal over the nose and mouth that stops any respiratory droplets from being expelled through the sides of the mask. When worn correctly and fitted snugly to the face, all respiratory droplets will be filtered through the mask, enabling the mask’s filtration layers to stop pathogens of 0.3 microns and above from passing through.

For All Your PPE- Contact CHARNAUD®

With the advent of Covid-19, the market has been flooded with masks claiming to be FFP2 or KN95. For this reason, it is important that you procure masks from a reputable PPE manufacturer like CHARNAUD®. As global safety experts, all CHARNAUD® respirator masks are certified according South African, European and Chinese standards. Should you require it, your CHARNAUD® product specialist is able to provide you with the certification documents to prove the legitimacy of their respirator masks. It is of the utmost importance that the FFP2 and KN95 respirator masks purchased by an organisation are the genuine article, so it is incumbent on the organisation’s HSE to check with the relevant certification body that the respirator masks’ certification documents are legitimate- visit our website today.

Now Read: The Differences Between ATPV and EBT Ratings in Arc Flash PPE