COVID-19: Recommended Masks & How To Spot Counterfeit Certification
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), worldwide demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) has increased by around 40% since the outbreak of COVID-19.
This spike can be largely attributed to the healthcare sector, as PPE is vital to keep frontline health workers safe from infection. However, PPE is also important for many workplaces that carry out other essential business, such as waste collection. Looking further ahead, and as we slowly see chances of the lockdown being lifted, the general public will also need some form of protection to keep themselves safe from the virus and avoid the spread increasing again.
Unfortunately, this demand for PPE has led to a surge in counterfeit PPE and certification. The danger of this is clear: when a fake product is used and doesn't perform as it should, it can mean the difference between life and death for the user.
To help everyone stay safe during this difficult time, we've put together this blog post which details how to spot fake PPE certification. We'll also outline which masks are recommended for COVID-19 and the specification to look for when procuring them (spoiler alert: it's not KN95!)
COUNTERFEIT PPE Certification
The CE Certification Checklist
When buying PPE, each product should have its own relevant certification. To make sure the product you're purchasing is genuine and meets the correct standards, the British Safety Industry Federation (BSiF) has created a checklist for CE Certification:
- Does the certificate contain a certificate number or reference and a statement that it remains the property of the notified body?
- Does the certificate clearly contain the notified body's name and number (4 digits - i.e. 0123)?
- Does the certificate include a signature/name of the individual certifying the product on behalf of the notified body?
- Is the notified body from within the EU? There are few non-EU notified bodies, so please exercise caution.
- Does the certificate show a date of issue (will usually be dated after April 29th 2018)?
- Does the certificate show a date of expiry (will be a maximum of 5 years from the date of issue)?
- Does the certificate include the full name and address of the manufacturer?
- Does the certificate contain a clear description of the product(s) certified, including model references, specifications and test report references?
- Does the certificate include a full list of the terms and conditions (often provided as an additional page or a link to a webpage)?
- Are there any indications that the certificate has been tampered with (different fonts, font sizes, colour changes etc.)?
If you answer no to one or more of the first 10 questions, and/or yes to the last question, it's advised you proceed with caution and immediately contact the PPE supplier for advice.
COVID-19 Recommended PPE
Facemasks and Respirators
There are two different types of PPE currently recommended for COVID-19: fluid repellent facemasks (Type 2R) and FFP2 or FFP3 respirators.
Fluid repellent facemasks (Type 2R)
Disposable medical facemasks that protect against infectious agents transmitted by “droplets.” These droplets can be droplets of saliva or secretions from the upper respiratory tract when the wearer exhales. However, a medical facemask doesn't protect against “airborne” infectious.
This type of facemask is recommended to be used by healthcare workers, or otherwise, within one metre of a patient with possible or confirmed COVID-19.
Remember, these facemasks must be marked as Type 2R in order to protect against COVID-19 - the product must also conform to standard EN 14683:2019.
Respirators (FFP2 or FFP3)
FFP2 masks have a minimum of 94% filtration percentage and maximum 8% leakage to the inside. They are mainly used in construction, agriculture, and by healthcare professionals against influenza viruses. They are currently also used for protection against COVID-19.
FFP3 masks have the maximum level of filtering for FFP respirators. With a minimum filtration percentage of 99% and a maximum 2% leakage to the inside, they protect against very fine particles such as asbestos. They are also used by healthcare workers delivering or assisting with aerosol-generating procedures.
Remember, these respirators must be marked as FFP2 or FFP3 - the product must also conform to standard EN 149:2001 + A1:2009.
MASKS TO AVOID
A significant amount of non-compliant PPE is being introduced into the supply chain. Masks and FFP respirators make up the bulk of this.
The market has seen an increasing presence of KN95 masks. However, KN95 is a Chinese domestic standard and therefore not suitable for use in the UK - especially if supported by unacceptable certification claiming compliance with EN 149.
KN95 masks should not be confused with the US N95 masks which are regulated and approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The Standards IN DETAIL
Surgical/medical facemasks are tested in the direction of exhalation (from inside to outside). The tests take into account the efficiency of bacterial filtration.
In Europe, they must comply with EN 14683:2019, which has 3 levels of bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE1, BFE2, Type R).
Fluid-repellent facemasks suitable for protecting against COVID-19 are Type 2R.
EN 149:2001 + A1:2009
Respirators are tested in the direction of inspiration (from outside to inside). The tests take into account the efficiency of the filter and leakage to the face.
In Europe, they must meet the EN 149: 2001 + A1:2009 standard which has three classes of disposable particulate respirators (FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3).
FFP2 and FFP3 are suitable for use against COVID-19.
Procure with caution!
There is an unprecedented increase in demand for PPE that will help protect against COVID-19. If a supplier you haven't used before is offering you a large supply of masks or respirators, request all the relevant certification and check they are marked to the right standards.
Now, more than ever, it's vital you look to procure PPE from a BSIF Registered Safety Supplier. These suppliers undergo regular independent product testing and also benefit from BSIF updates on COVID-19 PPE. This allows them to provide up-to-date advice to customers on what products should be used and also ensures any products they supply are genuine.
Swift360 is proud to be a BSIF Registered Safety Supplier. To find out what COVID-19 products we can supply, such as hand sanitiser or disposable aprons/gloves/masks, please get in touch on 01420 592 500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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