The Importance Of The Selection, Use And Care Of Your N95 Mask

Face masks have long been worn to help protect ourselves and others from transmitting communicable diseases. Experiencing a significant rise in use during the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks are commonly constructed from tightly woven breathable fabric, like cotton. To improve filtration, they may also contain a third, middle layer of non-woven polypropylene. While they can be helpful, such face masks are not nearly as effective as N95 masks.

What is an N95 mask?

An N95 mask is a type of respirator that offers the highest level of protection. It filters out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales. The “N” stands for “Non-Oil”. This is a Respirator Rating Letter Class meaning that if no oil-based particulates are present, you can use the mask in the work environment. The “95” refers to the efficiency percentage.

While surgical N95 masks are reserved for health care professionals, nonsurgical N95 masks can also be used by other professions such as dental hygienists, pharmacists, paramedics, personal support workers, painters, commercial workers (to name a few) and also by the general public.

What should be considered when choosing an N95 mask?

It’s vital that your N95 mask is a good fit. That means it should fit closely on your face without any gaps along the edges or around your nose. Your N95 mask will be less effective if it doesn’t fit properly or it is frequently removed. It should fit snugly over your nose, mouth and chin. You can check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask. Men must be clean-shaven on their cheeks and chin to ensure there are no gaps.  A clean-shaven facial surface is requirement to get a mask fit certification. There are no exceptions! When donning these masks in the workplace, a clean-shaven (within 2 days) protocol should be followed by company health and safety staff.  You want to check to see that no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.

If your N95 mask is a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask. You may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.

What is the proper way to use an N95 mask?

Firstly, you should wash your hands. It is always best to put your N95 mask on using clean and dry hands. Secondly, you want to inspect the mask for any damage before use. If it appears to be damaged, dirty or damp, it is best to not use it. If an N95 mask is used in the workplace, a mask fit certification is required by law.  This process is an Occupational Health and Safety (OHSA) approved certification and it involves a physical testing process.  This certification ensures the mask fits properly on the person’s face by following a CSA standard process.

A 2 year mask fit certification will be presented to the participant. This certificate references a specific  brand of N95 mask (ie. 3M, Honeywell, North, Models, etc) and a specific product of the that brand (ie 3M 8210, 3M 6201, North 5500 to name a few models) seals properly to your face. This certification is required by the employer to comply with health and safety standards in the workplace.  If a health and safety standard is not met, the ministry of labour will heavily fine the company since they not meeting essential labour requirements putting their employee at risk.

How should you care for your N95 mask?

N95 masks are designed to be disposable. Do not wash or attempt to sterilize your mask. You know it is time to be replaced when, a mask is contaminated, creating becomes laboured, its straps are stretched out and it no longer provides a proper seal. Most importantly, company health and safety “mask use” standards must be followed by the employee.  You should also promptly discard any mask  that is wet, dirty or damaged. A mask fit test will teach you how to properly perform a proper seal self-test ensuring you have a good mask seal on your facial surface.  .

At MaskFit Plus, we provide Mask Fit Testing Certifications that are approved by Occupational Health and Safety (OHSA). We deliver Qualitative Fit Testing (QFLT) certifications at either our locations or your premises. We also offer such Personal Protective Equipment as top brand N95 masks, half-face and full-face respirators. For more information, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 289-643-6222 or fill out the form on our Contact Us page!

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