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Counterfeit & substandard Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

A danger to workers across a range of sectors!

As you all know, the coronavirus pandemic saw an unprecedented reliance on RPE across a range of sectors that previously had little to no knowledge, experience or need for "Masks".

If you would first like some basic information on how there devices perform and how they should be worn, then follow the below link for another short video aimed at RPE wearers....

The global surge in demand for FFP2/FFP3 masks and half face respirators saw a worryingly and often critical shortage of genuine CE marked devices and so the UK was flooded with sub standard, non compliant and quite frankly, dangerous RPE.

In this article, we'll stick with filtering facepieces (FFP2/ FFP3 masks). Here in the UK we have standards, namely EN149:2001 and sub categories thereof; a CE mark dictates that an independent body has evaluated the mask against the European standard.

We have American and Chinese standards, namely N95 and KN95 that are (or should be) similar to an FFP2 mask, filtering 95% of particles down to 0.03 of a micron (1/1000 of a millimetre). The floodgates opened when PHE and the HSE stated that in the absence of CE marked FFP2 masks, non CE marked N95 masks could be utilised instead (yes, we know, not good but desperate times!). The CE mark must be printed on the individual device, must be in the adjacent format and followed by four numbers, if it hasn't got 4 numbers, its isn't CE marked!

As well has being non compliant, these devices often have ear loops as opposed to straps that should be positioned on the neck and crown of the head. Any face fit tester or RPE technician worth their salt will tell you that this simply wont maintain a seal to the face!

To compound matters further in these desperate times, there was an influx of inexperienced and sometimes incompetent face fit testers coupled with suppliers telling clients (think Health care providers, Dentists and even NHS trusts) that a KN95 was indeed an FFP2 mask, IT IS NOT! Incidentally, you'll find a list of externally assessed and competent face fit testers can be found below (including 1974 Rapport Ltd listed as a tester and training provider).

Another complication is FAKE certification; without going into detail I would simply like to refer you to the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) website we=here you'll find some good, comprehensive information.

The BSIF were kind enough to furnish us with examples of these "substandard" devices where we proceeded to fit test them. We were using the Quantitative face Fit Test method (live data) utilising the latest Ambient Particle Counting device from TSI (Portacount 8048). This is one of the three recognised face fit test methods prescribed by the HSE guidance document INDG497.

There's a little more information on quantitative face fit testing below, but we hope the video explained all that you need to know...

In short, if it isn't CE marked, if there is no reference to EN149:2001, if it states KN95, if it has ear loops or doesn't quite look or feel right, DONT use it. If you still have residual stock of these items, my advice would be to throw them in the bin!

Furthermore, when sourcing RPE, stick to reputable and established brands and when enlisting the services of a face fit tester, please ensure that you seek a competent, fit2fit approved face fit testers or lives and lungs could be put at risk.

Take care out there and please do feel free to spread the good word!


Director - 1974 Rapport Ltd


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