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    HSE RPE TESTS REVEAL 50% OF MODELS BELOW PAR

    Regulator found “multiple failures” in 3 out 10 FFP3 RPE Models tested

    HSE has published Research Report RR1087 – Market surveillance of FFP3 disposable respirators containing the findings of an HSE project involving the testing of respirators claiming compliance with class FFP3.

    The FFP3 class of respiratory protection is used across a number of work sectors. In the construction sector FFP3 masks are used to control exposure to asbestos where non-enclosure removal work is in progress and where there is respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and other dusts in the work atmosphere.

    Filtering Facepieces (FFPs) are disposable Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) for protection against dusts, particles and aerosols. This type of RPE is often referred to as ‘disposable dust masks available in three classes: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3, with the higher numbers corresponding to better filtering efficiency.

    All types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) sold in the UK must comply with the EU PPE Directive 89/686/EEC. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer or person placing the RPE on the European single market to ensure compliance. For FFPs this is invariably achieved by compliance with the harmonised standard EN149:2001+A1:2009.

    The HSE report describes ‘market surveillance testing’ of samples of ten FFP3 respirator models from ten different manufacturers that are available on the UK market. The authors state:

    “The aim was to determine whether each sample meets a range of health and safety performance requirements required by the standard.

    Only five of the ten models passed all tests with no faults or failures. Two models had an isolated fault on a single sample, one of which was very serious, rendering the respirator ineffective.

    Three models had multiple faults, two of them serious.

    The information provided with the masks by the manufacturers was generally acceptable, although four out of the ten manufacturers included no or limited information on pre-use checks.”

     

    HSE Executive Summary

    Objectives

    The aim of the project was to conduct market surveillance testing of a range of filtering facepiece respirators (FFP3) to check that a sample of products available on the market in the UK meet selected performance requirements from the standard with which they claim to comply (currently BS EN 149:2001+A1:2009 “Filtering half masks to protect against particles – requirements, testing, marking”). Performance requirements were selected based on experience of failures from previous studies. Tests requiring human subjects were excluded to limit the effects of human variability.

    Main Findings

    Ten different models of mask were selected from ten different manufacturers to cover a
    range of different designs and prices.

    • Five of the models passed all tests with no faults or failures (Models 1, 4, 5, 9 and 10).
    • Two of the models each had an isolated fault on a single sample (Models 3 and 6)
    • Three of the models tested had multiple faults (Models 2, 7 and 8).

    Of the isolated faults, one was very serious: a folded over exhalation valve flap, rendering the mask ineffective, on Model 6. The other was a pinhole through the filtering material of Model 3, which increased the leakage through the filtering material to slightly above the permitted level (1.1% leakage; the permitted leakage is 1.0%).

    Three out of six samples of Model 8 failed to meet the requirements of the exhalation breathing resistance test. This would not directly affect the protection offered, but could be less comfortable for the wearer.

    Twelve out of eighteen samples of Model 7 failed to meet the requirements of the filter penetration test. In the workplace, this could lead to reduced protection. Two of these samples were also found to have visible splits in the filtering material. Based on the samples tested, this model failed to meet the requirements of EN 14 9:2001 + A1:2009. Model 9 uses the same filtering material as Model 7, but the Model 9 samples are newer. All samples of Model 9 met the requirements of the filter penetration test, but it may be worth retesting them in two or three years’ time, to check for deterioration.

    Model 2 had numerous faults: one sample had a missing exhalation valve; two samples had holes through the heat – welds holding the straps in place; one sample was excessively crumpled. More than a quarter of the samples examined were found to have a fault that could affect performance.

    The markings on the masks were acceptable. The markings on the packaging were generally acceptable, with some anomalies. The information provided by the manufacturers was also generally acceptable, although four out of the ten manufacturers included no or limited information on pre-use checks. While this requirement of the standard is somewhat open to interpretation, information of this sort could prevent the safety of users from being compromised.

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