“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,” the HSE says. “These face masks may also be known as filtering facepiece respirators.”
The HSE safety alert is titled Use of face masks designated KN95.
It explains that KN95 is a performance rating under the Chinese standard GB2626:2006, the requirements of which are broadly the same as the European standard BSEN149:2001+A1:2009 for FFP2 facemasks.
However, there is no independent certification or assurance of their quality and products manufactured to KN95 rating are simply declared as compliant by the manufacturer, who customers just have to choose to believe, or not.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) cannot be sold or supplied as PPE unless it is CE marked (certificate of European conformity). The only exception is for PPE that is organised by the UK government for use by NHS or other healthcare workers where assessments have been undertaken by HSE as the market surveillance authority.
The HSE says that in light of all the rubbish coming onto the market, KN95 must not be used as PPE at work “as their effectiveness cannot be assured”.
It says: “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.”