N95 Masks in the Workplace
In addition to healthcare, N95 masks are a crucial part of an employee’s PPE and keeping employees safe across many industries. In fact, the masks were not originally designed for healthcare but for industrial use to protect against air particles and debris. N95 masks were only recently introduced into the healthcare space with adjustments made to the mask to better protect against fluids and are now certified as medical-grade N95 masks.
While there are a lot of sources suggesting that N95 masks be reserved for healthcare and first responders, utilizing non-medical grade industrial N95 masks, as well as the increase in mask production, still make the masks a viable option for certain industries.
Why cloth or disposable surgical masks are not enough in certain workplace environments?
For companies that require employees to work closely with one another or indoors, industrial N95 masks are the best option. According to Hartford Healthcare, cloth masks outperform surgical masks with 79% filtration eliminating surgical masks as a viable option. Despite the 79% filtration, the N95 provides 95% filtration outperforming both options significantly. Keep in mind that the CDC and WHO recommend cloth masks in conjunction with social distancing. Utilizing a cloth mask does not make social distancing unnecessary meaning in a work environment where social distancing is not an option, the N95 mask remains the safest mask.
What industries benefit from N95 use?
How to fit employes for N95 masks
The biggest benefit of the N95 mask is also it’s greatest downfall. The nose and mouth seal are what provide the 95% filtration rate however if the mask is not fit correctly the filtration rate drops drastically.
Here are important things to consider when fitting an N95 mask.
- The mask must fit snuggly
- Make sure there are no gaps between the mask and the employee’s face
- Place one strap above the ears and the other strap below the ears
- Use both hands to bend and pinch the metal nose bar to snuggly fit the nose
- Be sure to check for places where the mask is not sealed and air is leaking in or out
- Remember facial hair will not allow the mask to seal properly