What is a non-medical mask used for?

A non-medical mask, commonly known as a 3-ply civilian mask, is not intended for use in a medical/surgical/healthcare setting or by healthcare professionals.

 

What are surgical masks used for?

The primary purpose of a surgical mask is to help prevent particles (e.g. bacteria and viruses) from being expelled by the wearer into the environment. Surgical masks are not necessarily designed to seal tightly to the face so air may leak around edges.

 

What are respirators used for?

Respirators are tight-fitting facemasks designed to create a facial seal. Non-valved respirators provide good two-way protection, by filtering both inflow and outflow of air.  They are designed to protect the wearer (when worn properly), up to the safety rating of the mask.  They are available as disposable, half-face or full-face. Valved respirators provide protection to the wearer by filtering inflow of air.

 

What is the difference between a certified respirator and a mask?

Respirators are designed to help reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles. The primary purpose of a surgical mask is to help prevent biological particles (e.g. bacteria and viruses) from being expelled by the wearer into the environment. Surgical masks are not necessarily designed to seal tightly to the face, so air might leak around the edges.

 

What is the difference between an FFP2, N95 and KN95 respirator?

These are all filtering respirators. FFP2 respirators are manufactured to the EU standard, N95 to the USA standard and KN95 to the Chinese standard. However, they all offer a similar level of protection. The FFP2 respirator is intended for use in a medical / surgical setting and is CE marked.  The N95 respirator is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  It is intended for use in a medical / surgical setting.  The KN95 respirator is not currently approved for use in a medical /surgical setting by Public Health England (PHE) or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  It is, however, currently approved for such use in other countries, including France and the United States where it is approved for use by the FDA.  The filter performance for an FFP2 respirator is > 94%.  The filter performance for an N95 and KN95 respirator is > 95%.

 

When should FFP3 respirators be used?

PHE and experts from HSE currently advise the use of FFP3 respirators when caring for patients in areas where high risk aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) are being performed.

 

When should FFP2 respirators be used?

PHE and experts from HSE currently advise that when FFP3 respirators are not available then FFP2 respirators may be used for AGPs.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends FFP2 and N95 respirators for AGPs and these are widely used in other countries.  Whilst the KN95 is approved for use by the FDA in the United States, PHE and HSE have not approved it.

 

What is the difference between an FFP3 and N95 respirator?

These are filtering respirators. FFP3 respirators are manufactured to the EU standard, N99 to the USA standard. FFP3 respirators have a minimum filtration percentage of 99% and maximum 2% leakage to the inside. The filter performance for an N95 and KN95 respirator is > 95%.

 

What is difference between a non-medical 3-Ply facemask and a Type II-R facemask used?

A Type II-R disposable fluid-resistant surgical mask (FRSM) is worn over the nose and mouth to protect the mucous membranes of the wearer’s nose and mouth from splashes and infectious droplets.  FRSMs can also be used to protect patients. When recommended for infection control purposes a ‘surgical face mask’ typically denotes a fluid-resistant (Type II-R) surgical mask.

For further information and guidance issued by PHE please review the link below:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/881489/COVID-19_Infection_prevention_and_control_guidance_complete.pdf

 

What is the difference between an earloop and headstrap fitted respirator?

Earloops hook around the ears whereas the headstraps extend all the way around the head. The headstraps result in a tighter fit to the face. The filtering masks have a flexible metal bar at the bridge which can be adapted to the nose. 

 

Do masks/respirators need fit-testing?

Non-medical 3-Ply and Type II-R facemasks do not require fit-testing.

FFP2, FFP3, N95 and KN95 respirators require fit-testing as they require a complete seal with the wearer’s face.  If it does not, then airborne hazards can enter through the gaps in the face seal. Masks with earloops are unlikely to pass a fit test.

A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the respiratory protective equipment can protect the wearer.  If the respirators are not fit tested then they may not work as intended and the user may not get the full benefit of the mask.

However, studies* have shown that people can still receive a reduction in exposure if they do the following:

  • Follow the instructions on how to put on the respirator (i.e., donning)
  • Perform the user seal check (fit check) described in the user instructions
  • Make sure that they are clean-shaven where the respirator touches the face
  • Make sure no clothing or jewellery gets between the respirator and the face

*Brian Rembialkowski, Margaret Sietsema & Lisa Brosseau (2017). Impact of time and assisted donning on respirator fit. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 14:9, 669-673

The HSE website provides guidance on how to put on disposable respirators and how to do a pre-use seal check or fit check.

 

Does Express Uniform offer fit-testing?

We do not currently offer fit testing, and this will need to be arranged yourself.

 

Can the masks be washed?

No, these masks cannot be washed.

 

Will this mask stop me getting ill?

It is important to remember that respirators cannot eliminate the breathing in of all particles in the air and cannot eliminate the possibility of becoming sick. For your respirator to help reduce the number of particles you breathe, you must read and follow the user instructions that come with each respirator.

Please adhere to social distancing regulations. Facemasks are not a substitute for these measures.