1. What different types are there and what do they do for Covid-19?
AS/NZS 1716 Compliant Respirator – Designed to Australian/New Zealand Standards and is meant to protect you from a contaminated atmosphere. This is the gold standard for protecting yourself. A good face seal is imperative, if not a false sense of security may be the result. Ensure you wear the respirator in line with the manufacturer recommendations and test the seal. Facial hair between your face and the sealing surface of the respirator is not allowed. Reference AS/NZS 1715
Non-compliant Respirator – Manufactured overseas and recognition for compliance with the AS/NZS 1716 has not been sought. This respirator may still be of sufficient quality, but might not. Same precautions regarding fitting and face seal apply as above.
Surgical Mask – Designed for use by workers in a health care setting and helps reduce the amount of vapour/aerosol carried by your exhaled breath. The intent is to stop an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic person from spreading it in the air and depositing it on surfaces. It also offers some protection for uninfected persons from inhaling air contaminated with the virus. It is not as good as an AS/NZS Respirator as it does not seal as well.
Homemade cloth Mask – has a similar intent and function as the surgical mask. Not thought to offer the same protection from contaminated atmospheres as a surgical mask.
2. How likely am I to cause a shortage of masks?
The government has been worried in the past that supplies could run short and were mindful of the need to guarantee a supply for Health Care Workers, but this has since become less of a concern. By diligently protecting yourself you are helping to reduce the impact of this pandemic here in our country.
3. When should I wear one?
Whenever you have to go where there are lots of people or where you feel physical distancing will not be maintained effectively.
4. What is the importance of a good face seal?
It helps reduce the chance of you breathing in air contaminated with the virus. If you are unknowingly carrying the virus, you will be less likely to be spreading the virus but rather keeping it to yourself within the mask/respirator. Note: It is a legal requirement to isolate and not be out in the community if you have the virus.
5. Facial Hair
Beards and even stubble can interfere with the seal between the mask/respirator and your face. This has been proven scientifically. If you wear a mask or respirator over a beard or stubble you are both reducing the protection afforded by wearing it to both yourself and others if you are unknowingly infected. Be considerate and maintain physical distancing if you have no other options.
Note: A lot of people are unaware of this fact and most have not even given it a second thought, so be gentle if you have to explain this.
5. Is removal and disposal method important?
Yes, remove the mask/respirator with a technique that is mindful that you may be handling a contaminated object and avoid contact as much as possible. Dispose of in the bin and wash your hands afterwards.
Q & A information provided by: John Kelly - WHS Advisor