HSE safety alert on ear loop masks
12 May 2022
SINCE THE start of the Covid 19 pandemic and the PPE crisis we have seen FFP masks with “ear loops” being placed on the UK market. It has been apparent for a considerable time that there was significant concern over their ability to provide an adequate seal and to protect the wearer.
Use of such products were outlawed in the NHS from as far back as September 2020 and following considerable encouragement from BSIF, the HSE has completed research on the efficacy of ear loop masks/respirators as tight-fitting RPE.
HSE is now in a position to issue a safety alert to inform industry, employers, duty holders and workers that where tight fitting RPE has been identified as a control measure, as laid out in Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH and in INDG479) they should be aware that ear loop masks/respirators, including those provided with clips, ‘snuggers’ or other means of tightening the fit of the respirator at the back of the head, are highly unlikely to provide adequate protection for vast majority of employees. This includes ear loop masks/respirators which are CE or UKCA marked and applies in all work-related situations in GB.
This is because a tight seal to the wearers face is unachievable in the majority of cases.
Therefore HSE recommends that ear loop masks/respirators should not be used in workplace settings where tight fitting respiratory equipment (RPE) is required.
The HSE Safety Alert can be downloaded at https://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/ear-loop-respirators.htm