Woman wearing a face mask

Let’s face it.  It’s been a turbulent few months with PPE supply. There’s been global shortages of gloves, hand sanitiser, coveralls, masks and more.

I think we all know the answer why! With over 17 million confirmed Covid-19 cases (as of 30/7/20) and global hysteria at a sustained all-time high, panic buying has left stocks of raw materials significantly depleted.

Twin this with slower customs clearance, government sanctions and increased NHS, Emergency and Social Services and Critical Care needs, we’re starting to look at a pretty wobbly UK supply line of disposable PPE.

In this article, we’ll focus on the difference between masks and face coverings and looking at whether you need to wear one.

What’s an acceptable face covering?

In a Covid world, a face covering is a generally accepted term for anything that covers the lower part of your face, mainly your nose & mouth.

A face covering could include:

  • A scarf wrapped around your lower face (over nose & mask)
  • Surgical grade masks (Type IIR)
  • Reusable cotton masks
  • Bandanna
  • Civilian Grade Type 1 Masks

Do I need to wear one?

Most likely yes.

The government legislation that came into force on the 24th July has meant that a face covering needs to be worn in all enclosed public spaces as of that date.  The new legislation joined a preceding one whereby all civilians using public transport would have to wear one.


There is an exception for some circumstances.  Children under 11, those unable to put on a face covering due to mental or physical disabilities/illness or if you are reliant on lip movements for communication.

So what does a mask/face covering do?

A mask is by no means a guarantee that you won’t get a virus.  In fact, that’s a far cry away from reality.  However it will help slow transmission from person to person. That’s why they’re imperative for social and health workers where social distancing just isn’t an option.

At the beginning of the government campaign, we were advised to stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS so really, minimising interaction with others is going to be your best weapon of protection.

But as the UK comes out of lockdown, make the right face covering choice!

There are many types of mask out there.  If you’re a member of the public reading this, then we’d recommend you to make your own mask!

However, if you’re in an industry where social distancing is impossible or a mask is imperative to protect your staff, we have a quick round up below to help you.

Our guide to face masks

Type 1 

This most likely the mask that the person in front of you in the supermarket queue is wearing.   It’s an everyday civilian mask composed of 3 layers, and does have some fluid repellent properties although not certified to Type IIR.   These are in short supply, but still available, although likely at an inflated price.  If it’s not possible to make your own and you’d like that peace of mind and protection for your day to day activities, this is probably the one for you.

Type II

These are a popular disposable option with healthcare and emergency services and are best suited for environments there is exposure to low/med quantities of fluid or aerosols.   These should meet EN14683 Ratings and always look for the CE certification.

In times like this Coronavirus crisis, these are hard to obtain.  Please think before purchasing:  does my mask match my task?

FFP2 Respirator 

FFP2 masks are mostly used in the construction industry, and especially tasks like plastering where there are medium to high levels of dust exposure.  There is also a critical need for these masks in the healthcare sector as these protect against aerosols and fluids with a PFE or Particle Filtration Rate of >95%.  This means that a minimum of 95% of all airborne particles are filtered, offering vital protection to both patients and healthcare professionals.

Where possible, please leave the FFP2 masks for those who need them.  It is highly unlikely that any British citizen in any public environment will need this level of protection.  Please think before purchasing: does my mask fit my task?


The KN95 is the Chinese certification grade of a mask similar to an FFP2.  However, beware!  An FFP2 is an EU certified grade, and the masks are generally better made and have gone through a lot more stringent testing process. It does however have a 4 layer filtration system which offers superior protection.

FFP3 Respirator 

This is the top grade of mask available on the market, and offers the highest levels of protection.  Ideal for situations where medical personnel are handling dangerous chemicals, radioactive substances or for viral infection control.  These masks filter out 99% of particles up to 0.6 μm and are the highest level of mask protection.

These are proving very hard to obtain, given the more complex manufacturing process and the exponential increase in demand.  Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the NHS are now breaking into their stocks of these respirator masks reserved for pandemic flu.  Once again, please think before purchasing:  does my mask fit my task?

Cotton Masks

Cotton Masks are the best option for any civilian looking to take a stroll through your local shopping centre or meet someone in an enclosed space.  Typically these come with 2 layers of cotton protection & often have an anti-microbial outer layer which will last for a few washes.  These need to be washed at above 60 degrees and should be replaced with another as soon as the mask feels damp to the touch.

Where should I buy them from?

A lot of local supermarkets are now catching onto the trends and are catching ad hoc sales with the unfortunate person who has forgotten their mask.  In addition, Amazon, garden centres, shopping centres & many local businesses will have some supplies for smaller purchases.

For larger volumes, always check that the company is a reputable supplier.  Many companies have a “Who we work with” page, so it’s a good idea to check this out.  Always look for EN certification and always ask for a spec sheet.

Doing your bit

Did you do your bit and wear a mask?

Did you do your bit and wear a mask?

In 1915, a now famous WWI recruitment poster was released saying “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?”  Today, this could be echoed as “Reader, what did YOU do to help Covid-19?”

Will you be proud of your answer?

It might only be small, but wearing a mask when out and about is a small but very important thing that you can do to help flatten the curve and stamp out the virus.

So stay home where you can, wear a mask and stay safe.

Remember, together we’re stronger.


And if you need to know more about masks, please just get in touch

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