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FFP3 disposable respirators - BSRIA Instrument Solutions have concerns over HSE findingsJanuary 2017

TSI PortaCount respirator fit tester with a typical range of face masks

The Health & Safety Executive has launched a report highlighting market surveillance testing of samples of 10 Filtering Facepieces (FFPs) – specifically FFP3 respirator models – from 10 different manufacturers that are available on the UK market. The aim was to determine whether each sample meets a range of health and safety performance requirements required by the standard.

Only five of the 10 models passed all tests with no faults or failures. Two models had an isolated fault on a single sample, one of which was very serious, rendering the respirator ineffective. Three models had multiple faults, two of them serious. The information provided with the masks by the manufacturers was generally acceptable, although four out of the 10 manufacturers included no or limited information on pre-use checks.

Alan Gilbert, BSRIA Instrument Solutions General Manager, said: “FFP3 face masks are used extensively throughout the UK in applications such as the protection of workers from silicon dust on construction sites to general airborne dusts that generated within the plant and process industries, and with only five out of 10 mask types passing the market surveillance testing conducted by the HSE, this must we very worrying for industry in general.

With up to 10,000 new cases of lung and workplace respiratory diseases reported each year, prevention through the correct selection and testing of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) has never been more important. The research found that while all the masks were CE marked – one had a missing exhalation valve and if worn it would have been found to be far from suitable.

Thankfully problems such as this should have been picked up by an adequately trained operator during their pre-use checks, but faults such as leakage through filtering materials would have only been picked up if the operator was fit tested with the particular mask in questions.

BSRIA Instrument Solutions as a supplier of instruments such as the TSI PortaCount respirator fit tester will be following closely how industry will respond to this piece of research. Likewise any future be policing of the equipment being sold as well as adequate information being provided to the purchaser regarding the need for fit-testing to ensure suitability.”

What are FFPs?

Filtering Facepieces (FFPs) are disposable Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) for protection against dusts, particles and aerosols. They are often referred to as 'disposable dust masks', are widely used, and generally require no cleaning or maintenance. They are available in three classes: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3, with the higher numbers corresponding to better filtering efficiency. As with all types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sold in the UK, they must comply with the EU PPE Directive 89/686/EEC. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer or person placing the RPE on the European single market to ensure compliance. For FFPs this is invariably achieved by compliance with the harmonised standard EN149:2001+A1:2009.

For a full copy of RR1087 - Market surveillance of FFP3 disposable respirators click HERE.

Main report findings

10 different models of mask were selected from ten different manufacturers to cover a range of different designs and prices.

  • Five of the models passed all tests with no faults or failures (models 1, 4, 5, 9 and 10).
  • Two of the models each had an isolated fault on a single sample (models 3 and 6).
  • Three of the models tested had multiple faults (models 2, 7 and 8).

Of the isolated faults, one was very serious: a folded over exhalation valve flap, rendering the mask ineffective, on model 6. The other was a pinhole through the filtering material of model 3, which increased the leakage through the filtering material to slightly above the permitted level (1.1 per cent leakage; the permitted leakage is 1.0 per cent).

Three out of six samples of model 8 failed to meet the requirements of the exhalation breathing resistance test. This would not directly affect the protection offered, but could be less comfortable for the wearer.

12 out of 18 samples of model 7 failed to meet the requirements of the filter penetration test. In the workplace, this could lead to reduced protection. Two of these samples were also found to have visible splits in the filtering material. Based on the samples tested, this model failed to meet the requirements of EN 149:2001 + A1:2009.

Model 9 uses the same filtering material as model 7, but the model 9 samples are newer. All samples of model 9 met the requirements of the filter penetration test, but it may be worth retesting them in two or three years’ time, to check for deterioration.

Model 2 had numerous faults: one sample had a missing exhalation valve; two samples had holes through the heat-welds holding the straps in place; one sample was excessively crumpled. More than a quarter of the samples examined were found to have a fault that could affect performance.

The markings on the masks were acceptable. The markings on the packaging were generally acceptable, with some anomalies. The information provided by the manufacturers was also generally acceptable, although four out of the 10 manufacturers included no or limited information on pre-use checks. While this requirement of the standard is somewhat open to interpretation, information of this sort could prevent the safety of users from being compromised.

For further details on the TSI Portacount range of respirator fit testers either for rental or hire please click HERE. Alternatively call 0800 245 5566 (Freephone UK) or +0044 (0) 1344 459314 (International).

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