FFP masks and face coverings have become the new normal for battling the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. An FFP mask is a disposable mask used as a barrier for preventing the spread of respiratory particles. This is called source control. The use of these masks have been advised due to the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. We will detail the types of masks available, selecting/fitting one as well as putting on (donning) and removing (doffing) a mask.
Types of FFP Masks
FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece and they are split into 3 categories determined by their protection level. OEL (Occupational Exposure Limit value) refers to the amount of toxic substance that is allowed in air within a workplace. The APF (Assigned Protection Factor) indicates the factor by which the wearer is protected from hazardous substances. For example a mask with an APF of 4 will reduce the hazard of the wearer breathing in toxic substances by 4 times.
- The most basic of masks
- 4 X APF
- 4 X OEL
- Offers more protection than FFP1
- Recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the outbreaks of SARS, coronavirus and avian flu.
- 10 X APF
- 12 X OEL
- Offers the highest protection from breathing in hazardous substances
- Can block both liquid and solid aerosols
- Current NHS guidelines stipulate FFP3 face masks for virus and bacterial infection control when the contagion is spread through coughing and sneezing (such as with the coronavirus)
- 20 X APF
- 50 X OEL
Preparing your mask
FFP masks require a tight fit to your face therefore it is essential that you are fit tested as part of the selection process – this ensures that the mask forms a seal to your face. Your face must be clean shaven for an effective seal. If you do have facial hair, make sure that it is groomed and does not protrude under the mask seal or interfere with an exhalation valve.
- Before you start, make sure your hands are clean and disinfected
- Read the manufacturers instructions and make sure this is the correct type and size of mask you have been fit tested for
- Unpack and unfold the mask, check the straps, face seal and the nose clip
- Check the filtering material for holes/damage by putting it up to light and examining it
- If the mask is squashed, crumpled or damaged, don’t use it – dispose of it
Donning your mask
- Cup the mask in your hand with the straps hanging loose below
- Place the mask over your chin then pull over your nose
- Pull the bottom strap over your head to the back of your neck
- Pull the top strap over your head to sit above your ears and on the crown of your head
- Ensure the straps aren’t twisted
- If you need to tighten the strap, pull both ends at the same time, bottom strap first then the top
- Make sure the mask is tightly fitted but not uncomfortable
- Ask a colleague or use the mirror to check the straps are in the correct position
Additionally some masks may have a nose clip which should be pressed firmly against the shape of your nose. To adjust it, roll your fingers from the bridge of your nose down to either side to ensure a good seal. Furthermore, if you wear glasses, take them off for the time of mask fitting to make sure a gap is not created between the mask and your face.
Doffing your mask
- First make sure your hands are clean
- Pull the bottom strap of the mask over your head first and let it hang below the mask
- Grab the bottom straps and pull the mask off the face and up so the top strap of the mask comes off the crown of your head
- Do not touch the outside of the filtering material!
- Finally wash or sanitise hands
- First make sure your hands are clean and lean slightly forwards
- Grab both straps of the mask behind your ears, pull them up and around your head and slide hands forward until the mask detaches from your face
- Do not touch the outside filtering material!
- Finally wash or sanitise hands
FFP masks have a limited time of use. They shouldn’t be used for more than 3-4 hours, after that time they should be discarded. A mask should be discarded safely after it has been used, is damaged, soiled, damp, uncomfortable, difficult to breath in or if you feel that the seal is compromised. The mask should be discarded straight after use into an appropriate bin (ideally a pedestal closed bin). Sanitise or wash your hands after disposing of the mask.
You can also click here to read a great article that explains everything you need to know about the different types of FFP3 masks available.
Finally, you can click here to read the HSE’s fit testing basics.
Please do not hesitate to contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or require any further information.