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Buyers Guides & Videos - Face Masks

Face masks provide additional protection from COVID when social distancing isn't possible. They do this by capturing particles as they exit our airways when we cough, sneeze or talk and preventing inhalation of particles from our environment. Face coverings are now mandatory on all public transport in the UK.

What type of face mask or covering is right for me?

Government guidelines suggest that wearing a face covering can help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID, and there are 3 classes of face mask available.

  • Barrier Masks
  • Surgical Masks
  • Respirators

These are best for general, everyday use for healthy people. They are made from fabric so they can be reused. They don’t have strict requirements or conform to any standards because they are meant for general use and not for use by medical professionals or those in high-risk environments (i.e. hospitals).

What counts as a Barrier Mask?

A barrier mask is a cloth/fabric mask which either ties around the face or has elastic ear loops to fit to the face. These can be bought or made.

What do I need to be careful of?

You will need to regularly wash your reusable face mask to prevent build up of bacteria. You should stop using your barrier mask if the ear loops lose elasticity, as it may no longer be fitting to your face and protecting you effectively.

Should I use a barrier mask?

If you are a healthy person and want a mask for general use, travel, shopping or other daily tasks, you should opt for a barrier mask. It's important that surgical masks & respirators are reserved for those in hospitals and high-risk roles.

These are disposable and protect the wearer by capturing droplets (i.e. saliva) both from the wearer and those in their outside environment. Depending on how they're used, they can be effective for 3 to 8 hours. Surgical masks do not protect the wearer from airborne diseases, because they don't capture smaller particles like vapours, dust or gases. The European standards for surgical masks are based on Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE). The most common classes of surgical face masks on the market are Type I, Type I R Type II, and Type II R face masks.

What is a Type I Face Mask?

A Type I face mask is a surgical mask with 3 ply construction and a BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) of 95%.

What is a Type I R Face Mask?

A Type I R face mask is a surgical mask with a BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) of 95% plus a splash-resistant layer to protect against blood bodily fluids.

What is a Type II Face Mask?

A Type II face mask is a surgical mask with 3 ply construction and a BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) of 98%.

What is a Type II R Face Mask?

A Type II R face mask is a surgical mask with 4 ply construction and a BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) of 98% plus a splash-resistant layer to protect against blood bodily fluids.

Should I use a surgical mask?

If you are a caregiver or in an environment where you need to protect yourself and those around you from larger droplets like saliva or fluids, then you should use a surgical mask.

A respirator is the second type of medical mask, another name for them is Filtration Facepiece (FFP). These capture smaller particles like aerosols, dust, vapour, mist and gas and so are effective in protecting the wearer against airborne diseases like COVID. The European standards for surgical masks are based on their filtration efficiency. The most common classes of respirator are FFP2, FFP3 and N95.

What is an FFP2 Face Mask?

An FFP2 Face Mask is a respirator with a minimum 94% filtration efficiency and maximum 8% particle leakage from the outside. It’s not shaped to your face and is held in place with an elastic ear loop. 

What is an FFP3 Face Mask?

An FFP3 Face Mask is a respirator with a minimum 99% filtration efficiency and maximum 2% particle leakage from the outside. It is shaped to your face for a snug fit and in most cases has a valve to help you breathe as the filtration material is thicker.

What is a N95 Face Mask?

An N95 Mask is the American equivalent of the FFP2. The N stands for no oil resistance.

Should I use a respirator mask?

If you want extra protection or are a medical professional working in a high-risk environment where you are exposed to airborne disease and viruses, you should use a respirator.

Which face mask will protect me from COVID?

Only FFP2, FFP3 and N95 masks are fully effective in protecting against COVID. Surgical Masks (Type I, II, I R, II R) only capture large droplets, not smaller particles, and so don’t protect you from airborne diseases.

What's the difference between FFP2 and FFP3 masks?

Both are respirators, but the FFP3 masks has a higher filtration efficiency, thicker fabric and more secure fit than FFP2 masks.

What does the R stand for on surgical masks?

This means that your surgical mask has a fluid resistant layer, so it offers more protection against bodily fluids and blood.

How do I spot a fake face mask?

Since the pandemic began, there's been a big increase in the volume of masks with false accreditation in the market. Here are the warning signs of a fake product:

  • No markings on packaging
  • No manufacturer name, logo, or model number
  • No EU CE mark and Notified Body number
  • No Standard number

For the safety of your employees we recommend our Covaflu FFP2 Respirator Mask which complies with the World Health Organisations standards.

 

How should I put my mask on?

1. Wash your hands with soap and/or sanitiser and check the mask for any tears or openings
2. Face the front side of your mask (usually the coloured side) away from you
3. If it has ear loops, simply place each loop around each ear
4. If it has ties, bring it to nose level and secure the ties over the crown of your head in a bow
5. If it has bands, bring the mask to your nose and pull the top band over the crown of your head. Then pull the bottom band over your head to the nape of your neck.
6. Mould the nosepiece to fit over your nose
7. Finally, pull the bottom portion of the mask so it fits securely over your mouth and chin
(we recommend you always follow the guidelines provided with your mask, and for its storage)

How should I take my mask off?

1. Wash your hands with soap and/or sanitiser
2. Try not to touch the front of the mask, only the ear loops/ties
3. If it has loops, take hold of both of these and gently remove the mask from the face
4. If it has ties, untie the bottom one first and then the top and pull the mask away gently as the ties are loosened
5. If it has bands, lift the bottom and then top band over your head and gently pull away mask
6. Throw the mask in the bin
7. Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and/or hand sanitiser

Please note that the above guide has been created to provide general advice and help you choose the correct products. For official government and medical guidelines and advice please always consult official sources, such as WHO website.

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