Is your face mask up to the task?

17 Feb 2020

Face masks are a great way to protect yourself from fine particles in the air when onsite. They also help reduce exposure to bushfire smoke/poor air quality and associated health effects, which in recent times has unfortunately become a genuine consideration in Australia.

So, which face masks should you be wearing?

Although there are many different masks on the market, P2 masks (also called N95 masks) are the only ones designed to help block smoke inhalation, airborne infections and fine particles (such as crystalline silica which have been linked to silicosis due to inhalation). Though it is of course preferable to avoid smoky and particle ridden areas altogether, if you find yourself in an affected area it’s best to be wearing one of these masks to protect yourself.

How do I know if I’ve fitted my mask correctly?

Properly fitting your mask is actually just as important as getting the right one. To be effective, they must be fitted according to the manufacturer’s instructions and form a tight seal around the face. It can be difficult to maintain a tight seal, particularly for people with facial hair and children, however there are a few steps you can take to ensure your mask is fitting as well as possible.

How to fit a P2/N95 mask.

Firstly, when choosing your mask take the time to identify which size and style is appropriate for you. Every time you wear your P2/N95 mask you should perform a ‘fit check’ before entering an unsafe environment. Fit checks mean ensuring that the mask is sealed over the bridge of the nose and mouth, and that no air is leaking in between the mask and your face. P2/N95 face masks should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Here are six steps you should do to ‘fit check’ your mask before wearing in an unsafe area:

1. Remove any glasses and hats and tie back your hair if it is long so that it does not interfere with the straps of your mask.

2. Place your P2/N95 mask on your face, ensuring the nose piece is at the top.

3. Place the straps or ties both over your head and at the base of your neck.

4. Press the mask against your face to make sure a seal is formed across the bridge of your nose. You should be breathing through the mask, without air infiltrating from between the mask and your face.

5. Press the mask securely to ensure a seal is formed across your cheeks and face.

6. Test your mask by performing a fit check: Check the seal of the mask by gently inhaling. If the mask does not draw in when you breathe in, or air leaks in from around the face seal, readjust the mask and repeat process or check for defects in the mask. If the mask still leaks after this you may need to try a different size or style of mask.

Other things to note:

  • If you have facial hair, it’s advisable that you shave before using a P2/N95 face mask as it is very difficult to achieve a satisfactory seal if you have facial hair.
  • When you are done wearing your mask for the day, make sure you are in a place with cleaner air quality before it from your face.
  • Over time your mask may become slightly damp or discoloured, which is a good indication that it is time to change your mask and buy a new one.

Where do I buy a face mask?

P2/N95 face masks are widely available from hardware stores and other safety equipment suppliers.

Kevmor are proud to offer special introductory pricing to FCIA members for their Dust Mask Respirators.  Call 1300 KEVMOR (1300 538 667) to find out more.

The Kevmor AIR+ Smart Mask in particular combines a certified disposable P2 mask with a reusable snap-on ventilator that expels trapped heat, humidity and harmful carbon dioxide, helping users breathe better and comfortably. The Air+ Smart Mask is engineered to mimic the way you breathe as the function of our nose. The revolutionary Air+ active ventilator expels the hot, humid and CO2 enriched exhaust air far away and enables you to breath cool fresh air. Airflow is key to providing circulation assistance within the mask. The powered active ventilator reduces relative humidity by up to 40% and achieves temperature reduction by up to 4oC. Internal CO2 levels are rapidly reduced to minimise dizziness and headaches. The Air+ Smart Mask is breakthrough innovation Designed in Singapore by Innosparks/ Stengg and has garnered international design awards from Red Dot and IF Awards. Masks and ventilator are sold separately.