How to wear a Dust Mask
Tens of thousands of UK workers are suffering from work related respiratory diseases, many of which are chronic, fatal and could be prevented by simply wearing a correctly specified, face fit tested dust mask… if it's worn correctly!
These numbers will continue to rise unless attitudes change towards HEALTH and Safety; yet many employers are still relying on RPE alone to reduce exposure to airborne hazards.
Half of the battle can be getting workers to wear a mask in the first place, the other half is getting them to wear it CORRECTLY.
There is often a reluctance to reference the manufactures instructions or ask for advice when wearing such a simple device but experience tells me that people simply do not know how to wear a dust mask. Common mistakes and faults include…
• Wearing straps over a hat / hoody / overall.
• Not adjusting or not tightening the straps.
• Incorrect positioning of the straps.
• Wearing it upside down.
• Not adjusting the nasal strip.
• Not covering the nose, only wearing it over the mouth (seriously, I’ve seen it!)
• Poor condition or reusing a non-reusable (NR) mask; most “disposables” are single shift use only.
• Incorrect or insufficient filtration (eg selecting a gas filter for a particulate hazard or vice versa)
To wear RPE correctly, the wearer must first understand how tight fitting RPE functions; All close fitting respiratory protective equipment (dust masks, filtering face pieces (FFP1/P2/P3) respirators…) work by creating a seal to the face. With an effective seal created, when the wearer inhales, the air passes through the filter membrane. If the mask is ill fitting or incorrectly worn then air will not pass through the filter but instead take the path of least resistance which is usually where it should seal to the face.
It is essential that the wearer is fully clean shaven, i.e. no stubble / facial hair, or an effective seal cannot be achieved... given modern fashion trends, this is a real problem that needs to be addressed, not overlooked or ignored.
• Select adequate RPE - Correct filtration for the hazard(s) in question, CE marked, BSEN 140:1998 / BSEN 149:2001.
• Face Fit Testing is essential before you begin to wear the mask - specific to the exact make, model & size of "mask"..
• Do not rely on close fitting RPE unless you are fully clean shaven, no more than 24 hrs facial hair growth (Google "HSE RR1052")
• Read the instructions!
• Inspect it's overall condition, valve, straps, seal & seams.
• Ensure that other PPE such as eye protection doesn’t interfere with the seal.
Putting it on
• Place the lower strap on the neck (needs to “pull down”).
• Position your chin in the cup of the mask, offer it up to your face covering the nose.
• Place the upper strap on the crown of your head (needs to “pull up”).
• Tighten the straps equally to create an effective seal to the face; should be firmly pressed against the face but not uncomfortable to wear nor causing the skin to wrinkle.
• Use your forefingers to shape the nasal strip to match the contours of your nose, do not "pinch" it.
• Undertake an inhale or exhale test (a feature usually exclusive to re-usable respirators).
It Sounds easy enough but the next time you see someone wearing a mask, take a closer look and it's almost a certainty that its being worn incorrectly;
Spread the word to help worker stay safe and healthy!