FFP3 & FFP2 Masks
FFP3 Face Masks Are Essential Protection Against Airborne Contaminants Including The Coronavirus
18,000 new cases of work-related breathing or lung conditions are diagnosed annually according to a paper on respiratory diseases published by the Health and Safety Executive. This is a frustrating statistic given the variety of personal protective equipment available to mitigate against the risks of respiratory conditions when working in hazardous environments. Of these, the most effective type of defence is to wear face masks when carrying out your daily tasks. If you’re wondering what the difference is between FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 face masks, this guide will help you decide the right level of protection both for your workplace and as a strategy to guard against the recent global outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Who Needs To Wear Face Masks
If you work in any environment where your health is at risk from being around dust, chemicals, toxins and fumes, as well as any medical environment where you might be exposed to bacteria or viruses such as COVID-19, then you’ll need to protect your respiratory system from coming into contact with these contaminants.
Failure to wear a mask may put you at risk of developing respiratory conditions which range from coughs and wheezing to breathing difficulties and even death at the other end of the scale. Your mask should always be tightfitting to prevent any hazardous particles from being able to seep in around the outside of your mask.
In order to adhere to strict industry-specific health and safety regulations, your employer should carry out regular risk assessments covering the environment you’re working in. It is their responsibility to provide you with a suitable mask offering an appropriate level of protection. However, with regards to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus, you may also wish to stock up on FFP3 face masks for personal use outside of the workplace. Investing in FFP3 masks before there is a shortage is a wise move, as some brands are already experiencing problems with low stock. PPE Supplies Direct currently has good stock levels of FFP3 face masks!
Understanding Respirator Filter Codes
The acronym FFP stands for ‘filtering face piece’ and these are offered at grades 1, 2 or 3 depending on the strength of protection that you require and the type of hazard you wish to avoid coming into contact with your respiratory system.
These protect against low volumes of dust that may be created during manual jobs such as sawing, cutting or drilling. FFP1 dust masks can also offer a shield against both solid and liquid aerosols. With regards to the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL), a mask at this level offers protection against materials in concentrations of 4 x the limit, which is the same value for the Assigned Protection Factor (APF).
Going up a grade, FFP2 face masks provide a shield against more moderate levels of hazard, including higher levels of dust and protection against solid and liquid aerosols also. Typically, your FFP2 masks can be used for jobs such as sanding or plastering which release a sizeable level of contaminants into the air. The OEL value for these masks specifies that FFP2 offers protection against materials in concentrations of 12x the limit, and 10x the APF limit.
FFP3 face masks are in high demand at the moment due to the global outbreak of the Coronavirus which is confirmed to have reached the UK. FFP3 masks offer the greatest level of protection against any airborne hazard. In terms of industrial hazards, a P3 filter would defend against substantial volumes of dust, solid and liquid aerosols, and may also be used when working with quantities of chemicals and powders in the pharmaceutical industry. FFP3 face masks are appropriate for use when working with asbestos too. The OEL protection is 50x the concentrations of other materials, and the APF is 20x. As they offer the strongest level of defence against airborne contaminants, if you’re in doubt about the recommended protection you need, always opt for FFP3 masks so you have maximum peace of mind that your respiratory system is safe. Remember the rule that wearing the wrong type of face mask is the equivalent to wearing no mask at all, and could be the cause of you contracting a virus or developing a serious respiratory illness.
Protection Against the Coronavirus
In terms of offering protection against viruses and bacteria infection control, FFP3 masks are the most effective type of disposable protection on the market and sales of this product are gaining rapid pace since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. FFP3 face masks are considered to be a much higher level of protection in comparison to surgical masks which are used by medical staff in the NHS and across the globe.
FFP3 Face Masks Superior To Surgical Masks
Surgical masks are typically made from disposable fabric such as tissue paper which is ineffective at filtering out the tiny particles of a virus, including the Corona strand. Once a surgical mask becomes moist due to breathing humidified air closely on its surface, it is no longer an effective shield against airborne diseases. Instead, Dr Nathalie MacDermott, who is a clinical lecturer at King’s College, London, explains that if you’re trying to avoid contact with dangerous viruses, then you should opt for a more advanced model of protection with FFP3 masks being the most popular solution in the market. They’re thicker than surgical masks and are made from a synthetic material which enables them to eliminate fine particles including dust or those associated with the Coronavirus and other airborne diseases. FFP3 face masks come with an inbuilt valve at the front which releases the build-up of air and moisture.
Choosing When To Use FFP3 Masks or Surgical Masks
Public Health England have released some important advice to help healthcare workers decide when it is appropriate to don a surgical mask or an FFP3 mask, depending on the situation. A full risk assessment should take place before any patient interaction to determine the best level of protection to choose.
FFP3 masks should always be the PPE garment of choice when carrying out any aerosol generating procedures, including coughs or sneezes. Such procedures are not limited to, but might include bronchoscopies, endotracheal intubations, tracheostomies, cardiopulmonary resuscitations, or diagnostic sputum inductions. You should also wear one when treating a patient who has a known infectious respiratory virus, such as the Corona strand. Care must be exercised when in contact with a patient who is suspected of being infected with such a virus, in scenarios where they’ve mingled with others who have definitely contracted the illness.
As a lesser form of protection, surgical masks make an appropriate alternative if you’re cleaning a patient’s room or medical equipment or are providing close patient care within a metre, such as phlebotomy services, home visits or taking diagnostic imaging.
Combining Your Face Masks With Other PPE Equipment
FFP3 face masks are the superior choice of personal protective equipment to shield yourselves from infectious viruses, bacteria as well as other airborne contaminants. However, it’s important to wear them in conjunction with other sensible items of PPE equipment for maximum protection. As a minimum, you should invest in:
These additional garments will prevent the spread of contaminants or infection onto the flesh and ensure that there is no risk of splashing or droplets carrying any hazardous materials into the eyes for example.
When wearing your PPE gear, there is a recognised best practice order in which to remove your clothing for maximum protection. Following your work in a hazardous environment, you should remove first your gloves, then apron or gown, followed by your eye protection, then finally your surgical mask, or preferably your FFP3 mask. Washing your hands thoroughly and using an alcohol rub to disinfect your hands afterwards is also a critical step to take.
We are currently out of stock of all FFP3 face masks. Please follow the link below and sign up for our waiting list, as soon as we have stock available we will notify you when they’ll be available for purchase.
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