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Choosing The Right Face Mask For The Task

Choosing The Right Face Mask For The Task

Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is designed to prevent the inhalation of contaminated air by the wearer. They also reduce exposure to the wearer’s saliva and respiratory secretions. In years gone by, the use of these masks was limited to professionals requiring them for their job – surgeons, spray painters, woodworkers etc. Nowadays, every household has at least one face mask and they have become a vital necessity for every business to keep in stock due to COVID-19.

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Disposable non-woven face masks

These masks were synonymous with medical professionals before the dawn of COVID. Nowadays, most households have at least one of these masks tucked away in the cupboard, a handbag, or vehicle; And every business should have a supply ready for use at a moment’s notice.

Also referred to as medical (or surgical) masks, these apparatuses create a barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the environment as with COVID-19. It also reduces exposure of the wearer’s saliva and respiratory secretions to others – as in a patient’s surgical procedure or the production of commercial food in highly sanitised environments.

These masks are not designed for external use of laundering. They are disposable. If the mask is damaged or soiled, or if breathing through the mask becomes difficult, it should be discarded and replaced with a new one. Always wash hands before and after handling a used mask.

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Rating levels for disposable face masks

Face mask protection levels are rated using the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) key performance factors. The testing determines the face mask’s level of bacterial and fluid filtration (BFE & PFE) as well as the mask’s resistance to the fluid, differential pressure and flammability levels.

Ideal for procedures where low amounts of fluid, spray and or aerosols are produced.

These are considered as a low barrier mask, latex and fibreglass free when there is minimal fluid, blood, or aerosol exposure. These are commonly used for patient exams, orthodontic work, and basic cleaning practices.

Ideal for procedures where moderate to light amounts of fluid, spray and or aerosols are produced.

Level 2 masses are also latex and fibreglass free. These provide a little more barrier than level 1 masks providing a moderate amount of protection with fluid blood or aerosol exposure. These are commonly used with some oral surgeries, when working with some sealants, and anything mentioned above with the added protection a level 2 mask provides.


Ideal for procedures where heavy to moderate amounts of fluid, spray and or aerosols are produced.

These high barrier masks are ideal for procedures with moderate to high contact with fluid, blood, and aerosols. Common medical procedures utilising these masks include cosmetic surgery and complex oral surgery. These masks are in high demand due to COVID-19.


Half Face single filter respirator masks

These respirators are a durable option suitable for multiple uses. They are made from Thermo Plastic Elastomer (TPE) which is allergy free rubber that is more comfortable for extended wear than plastic alternatives.

These masks are most popular for use in industrial activities such as woodworking, agriculture, maintenance, or around paint of chemical spraying.

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Clear PET face shields

The face shield is intended to protect the wearer’s face from hazard. This is broader coverage than the previously mentioned masks which protect the mouth and nose. However, the face shield alone is not suitable for protection from airborne particles, chemicals, and viruses when used alone. Using it with a disposable non-woven face mask is suitable for respiratory protection.

The advantage of a face shield is the wearer’s face and facial expressions can be seen which is important in some instances like working with young children, or with some aged care residents. It does provide eye and facial protection but as previously stated, the sides and underneath are exposed leaving the wearer susceptible to airborne contagions.


Important things to remember with Face Masks, Respirator masks, and Face shields

  • Always wash hands before and after handling the face mask.

  • Inspect the mask before use to ensure it is clean and in good condition.

  • Read the manufacturer instructions to ensure you use the equipment correctly.

  • Single-use non-woven face masks should be discarded after each use.

  • Multi-use respirators and face shields should be cleaned based on the manufacturer’s recommendations with a neutral detergent solution or wipe

Be prepared with a backup supply of face masks

It’s a new world we live in compared to a few years ago when surgical masks were associated with surgeons, respirators were worn by vehicle spray painters, and we saw face shields on riot police. 2020 was a new dawn and today you’d be hard-pressed to find a home or business that does not have face masks in store courtesy of COVID-19.

As we know, the future is unpredictable, so every business needs to be prepared. Take inventory of the disposable masks, respirator masks, and/or face shields you have in store. Place an order today to ensure you have appropriate supplies to support your business in times of need. If you need help deciphering which mask is the most suitable for your business, our friendly team are available to help identify the best mask for you!

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