“A substantial number of face masks, claiming to be of KN95 standards, provide an inadequate level of protection and are likely to be poor quality products accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork.”Health & Safety Executive - UK
The HSE safety alert is here: Use of face masks designated KN95.
KN95 is a performance rating under a Chinese standard: GB2626:2006.
The requirements of this standard are similar to the European standard BSEN149:2001+A1:2009 for FFP2 facemasks/dustmasks.
Unfortunately, there is no independant body assuring quality of KN95 rated product, so these KN95 face masks are declared compliant by the manufacturer. No testing, no further checks, just "Yep, that will do"...
Well it simply won't do.
Products must not be supplied as PPE unless it is CE marked (certificate of European conformity) - hence the safest bet for any business is to only buy from a BSiF Registered Safety Supplier.
There is a new and temporary exception for PPE that is procured by the UK government for use by the NHS. Even then, only after assessments and testing has been done by HSE, who act as the the market surveillance authority.
KN95 Should Not Be Used As PPE (personal protective equipment) In The Workplace.
The HSE warns that due to the market being flooded with non-compliant and faked KN95 masks, and “as their effectiveness cannot be assured” KN95 masks must not be used as PPE in the workplace.
HSE also stated that:
“Masks that are not CE marked and cannot be shown to be compliant must be removed from supply immediately. If these masks have not been through the necessary safety assessments, their effectiveness in controlling risks to health cannot be assured for anyone buying or using them. They are unlikely to provide the protection expected or required.”Health & Safety Executive - UK
Are KN95 Masks The Same As N95?
In a word, no.
KN95 should not be confused with the N95 rating used by the U.S., which is also fairly similar to the EU FFP2 rating, but is not resistant to oils .
However, you should still not use N95 masks in a UK workplace as PPE, as they are not covered by the health & safety laws of the United Kingdom.
N95 does go through stringent safety testing, but it is not as stringent or thorough as our own and they do not cover many tests that the UK and EU make. For instance N95 is not resistant to oils where an FFP2 would be. Also N95 masks have no "Total Inward Leakage" (TIL) testing, have much lower inhalation resistance and no test for re-breathed CO2.
Remember a non-compliant mask is no mask at all.
Who Has Responsibility For Providing CE Marked PPE?
It is an employee's responsibility to ensure they wear any PPE provided to them by their employer.
It is the employer's responsibility to ensure only CE marked PPE is provided to employees.
It is the supplier's responsibility to ensure only CE marked PPE is supplied to buyers.
It is the importer's responsibility to ensure CE marked PPE is imported into the country.
It is the manufacturer's responsibility to ensure they produce compliant PPE to sell to importers.
And it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that supply chain is fully traceable, from the wearer right back to the production batch.
That is the reason for the British Safety Industry Federation (BSiF) and why you should only buy from a BSiF registered safety supplier. Find a list of them here.
This Is Not The Only PPE Scam
We wrote a week or so ago warning about non-compliant disposable gloves having paperwork faked. This new warning from the highest safety authority in the land goes to show that some companies will happily put lives at risk for a profit. It also shows that companies may unwittingly be selling non-compliant PPE to customers simply by not having the correct information or supply chain.
Whilst this Covid-19 pandemic is ongoing, you MUST ensure you are not being taken advantage of. That is why only a BSiF Registered Safety Supplier should be supplying your workplace PPE.
If it isn't designated as PPE and you are not planning on using it as such, you can buy it from anywhere. For instance, face coverings for using on public transport, in a shop or factory do not need to be compliant PPE dust masks. For those purposes, a simple 3-ply non-sterile surgical style face mask is fine, as is a covering you make yourself from a sock or t-shirt.
They won't protect the wearer, but they DO protect others and mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.
It is only if the mask is to be used to protect the wearer from workplace fumes, gases, dusts, aerosols or particles that a CE marked fully compliant FFP3, FFP2 or FFP1 face mask must be worn - and you are unlikely to find those by the tills at your local pound shop.