With the country getting back on its feet after the pandemic lockdown, there is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there on how to control the rate of contamination. This includes guidelines about incorporating safety measures, preventative measures, social distancing, sanitizing, and personal protective gear.
The workplace is one of the areas where there is daily, and at times, unavoidable interaction among employees and employers. In the current scenario, we need to consider all persons as potentially infected. Chances of infection are the highest when there is less than 6 feet of distance being observed between individuals. So, when you find yourself in a work environment with many others, try to maintain the required space.
The next most important guideline is personal protective equipment like face masks. The science is evident on the use of face masks. Along with frequent hand washing, covering your nose and mouth with face masks has been shown to slow the virus from spreading.
There are mainly four kinds of masks available on the market today. Let us have a look at them and how they can be used most effectively.
Disposable Surgical Masks
Disposable surgical masks or medical masks are loose fitting masks meant for single use. Surgical masks protect the wearer’s nose and mouth from droplets, and sprays containing germs. A typical disposable surgical mask is 3-ply, meaning it is made of three layers of a melt-blown synthetic polymer which is placed between non-woven fabric.
A properly worn three-ply disposable surgical mask can help block transmission of large particle microorganisms from splatters and sprays. It may also reduce the chances of hand to face contact.
In a regular work environment, make sure your mask is fitted well, so it doesn’t disturb you from doing your job, and doesn’t require any adjusting. It is best to change your disposable surgical mask every three to four hours, or when you feel it is damp or wet.
Also called N95 respirators, these masks meet the conditions of air filtration as per the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The N95 mask filters 95% of airborne particles. It is also the the most used particulate filtering respirator. While using an N95 respirator at work, one must ensure a proper seal to effectively filter out germs. Contact with smooth skin reinforces a tight fit. Do a negative and positive pressure check when you put on an N95 mask.
While these masks are meant to be disposable, some researchers are coming up with a way of disinfecting N-95 masks during this critical time.
The KN95 mask respirators are much like the N95 masks. They are made from multiple layers of synthetic material designed to filter out 95% of particulate in the air, sizes of up to lesser than 0.3 microns.
The main difference between these masks lies in how they are certified. A certified KN95 mask is required to be tested on real humans to prove a special fit that shows less than 8% leakage. On the other hand, the American standard, N95, does not conduct fit tests. While N95 masks go through a rigorous inspection and certification process, companies manufacturing KN95 masks need to procure approval from the FDA and produce authenticity certificates for material used. So far, research shows the KN95 mask is as effective and reliable as the N95 mask.
When surgical masks and respirators are not readily available, the Centers for Disease control and prevention(CDC) recommends that everyone use a cloth face covering. Cloth face masks work by trapping droplets released by the wearer when they talk, sneeze or cough. While they do not serve the effectiveness of a surgical mask, they may help reduce contamination if practiced in addition to physical distancing and appropriate hygiene habits. Some do’s and don’ts to be considered when using a homemade cloth mask are:
- Exercise caution while removing a cloth mask. Avoid touching your eyes nose or mouth as you take the mask off. Wash hands thoroughly immediately after.
- Do wash cloth masks after each use.
- Do create cloth masks from multiple layers of breathable fabric.
- Do make sure it has a snug fit
- Do not touch the mask while you have it on. Use the ear loops to remove.
As important as the make of the mask is the consistency and regularity with which you wear it. Along with thoroughly following other hygienic practices, it is a powerful way to fight the pandemic.
Do you need masks for your family or organization? Endeavor offers high-quality disposable, cloth, N95 and KN95 anywhere in the U.S. see our full line of masks here.