HomeIndustry NewsGuidance for companies that need to issue face masks

Guidance for companies that need to issue face masks

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With the shortage of PPE very much in the news – along with stories of hurried imports that do not meet UK specifications – leading UK safety company Arco is making a significant effort to support the UK supply chain for critical equipment including face masks and respirators.

The government has announced that it is considering a range of measures on the relaxation of the lockdown guidance, that would enable some businesses to re-open.  This may include a recommendation for the use of face masks by healthy people in the workplace. 

As many companies are now specifying face masks for the first time, Arco has compiled expert advice and guidance for its customers on the correct selection of facemasks and respirators, particularly in regard to Type II and Type IIR facemasks.  This is to ensure that the higher levels of protective equipment are issued to those that need them most. 

Where full respiratory protection is not required, and the objective is to prevent the possible transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, then the most appropriate PPE would be a face mask.  A respirator would be more suitable alternative where full respiratory protection is needed to protect a worker from a hazardous substance – including COVID-19.

It is important that respirators are not specified where Type II face masks could be used, and the recommendation is that a full workplace risk assessment is carried out to determine the hazardous substances in the environment.  This should include the risk of exposure to infection.

Medical face masks are classified into two types, Type I and Type II, with Type II further divided according to their splash resistance pressure, which determines the mask’s resistance level to contaminated fluid splashes.  Type II face masks are suitable for most workplace situations, where masks are being issued with the objective of preventing the transmission of COVID-19 virus from one person to others.  Type IIR splash-resistant medical face masks are for use in clinical settings to protect the wearer against contaminants contained in splashes of blood or bodily fluids.

Neil Hewitt, quality director at Arco said: “The current demand for all types of PPE, especially face masks, is unique and we are seeing a daily increase in enquiries for all types.  We are managing our supply chain to ensure that protective equipment reaches those that need it most and are not diverted from health care and front-line responders. 

“We are issuing some specific guidance on the use of face masks to enable customers to select the right product for their needs and to ensure the that the higher levels of protective equipment are issued only where necessary.   We would add a warning about the influx of non-compliant products coming into the market that have not been tested and certified to meet the necessary standards and could potentially put people at risk. We recommend that customers work with companies like Arco, that can provide assurance on product quality and conformity.”

Those issuing Type II masks for the first time will need to provide instruction to wearers of the correct way to put on, take off and dispose of the masks once used.  Arco has compiled a step-by-step illustrative guide along with a list of FAQs for managers.  These are freely available at: https://www.arco.co.uk/coronavirusadvice