Social Safety – Guide to Face Masks


Health and Safety law says that employers must protect workers from injury or harm to health which could happen as a result of work-related activity. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect workers and others from coronavirus.

The HSE website currently states that there is currently no evidence that using face masks outside of a healthcare or clinical setting will protect people from coronavirus. However, face coverings do not need to be worn in the workplace but employers should support their workers if they choose to wear one.

Face masks fall into two groups – Medical/Surgical and Safety.  Both have very different protection levels:

Medical/Surgical Masks offer resistance to the expulsion of fluids, droplets and particles.

There are three levels available:

Type I Do not have resistance to fluids and are not suitable for use
Type II Do not have resistance to fluids and are not suitable for use
Type III Do have resistance to fluids and droplets (as tested to EN14683:2019) and will have a Declaration of Conformity to the Medical Devices Directive (MDD) 93/42/EEC and a supporting test report.

In use, the purpose and function of the Type IIR mask is to help prevent large particles expelled by the wearer (spittle and mucus) from reaching the patient or work environment.

This type of mask is designed to limit the expulsion of fluids, droplets and particles. It does not offer any respiratory protection to the wearer for incoming fluids, droplets or particles. Once the mask becomes wet it is recommended to be replaced immediately and be disposed of in a hygienic way.

Safety Masks

If fitted correctly these masks offer protection to the respiratory system of the wearer (in the UK a face fit test is required to be carried out).

Again, there are three levels available:

FFP1 Not recommended for use against the Coronavirus.
FFP2 FFP2 face masks are the equivalent of N95 face masks, which meet the guidelines from The World Health Organisation for protection against Covid-19. FFP2 masks have a minimum of 94% filtration percentage and a maximum of 8% leakage to the inside. These masks are not shaped to the wearer’s face but are simply held in place by the elastic earloop and have a typical lifespan of 3-8 hours depending on environmental factors.
FFP3 Have a minimum 99% filtration and protect against very fine particles such as asbestos.

P1, P2 and P3 masks all fall under the PPE safety regulations and, as such, will be tested and marked (EN149: 2001) on the product itself.

In use, the purpose and function of FFP respirator masks is to prevent the wearer from inhaling aerosols (dust, smoke, mists), vapours and gases as well as fine dust particles.

For full respiratory protection, an FFP2 or FFP3 masks which each have 94% and 99% filtration as a minimum and will protect against the Coronavirus.

In all usages the mask must be fitted in a correct and secure way to ensure a minimum level of protection.

For more information on these or other items to ensure social distancing is implemented and adhered to, or to request a quote, do please contact us.