May 16, 2022
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The HSE recently issued a safety alert regarding the use of respirators and face masks that rely on ear loops to hold them in place.

Inhaling fumes, chemicals or other hazardous substances at work can cause permanent damage to health, triggering conditions such as asthma and lung disease or cancers. Where those risks can’t be controlled by other means then it may be necessary for workers to wear specific respiratory protective equipment (RPE) such as face masks and respirators that filter harmful contaminants from the air.

In order to be effective it is important that these types of respiratory protective equipment provide a tight fit around the mouth and nose in order to prevent the wearer breathing contaminated air.

Often this type of equipment will use adjustable straps that fit around the head to ensure a tight fit is obtained, however some types may only rely on loops that fit round the wearers ear, sometimes using additional devices to tighten the fit.

Recent research by the HSE has found that devices that rely on ear loops, including those that use tightening devices such as “snuggers” do not protect people adequately where tight fitting respiratory protective equipment is required. As such HSE do not recommend that ear loop mask/respirators are used where a tight fit is required.

To provide adequate protection for individual wearers, all tight-fitting RPE should be fit tested by a competent assessor as part of the selection process.

Full details of the safety alert can be found on the HSE’s website at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/ear-loop-respirators.htm

Please speak to your normal PIB Risk Management contact or get in touch using [email protected]  if you have any questions or would like assistance with managing the use of hazardous substances or selecting respiratory protective equipment.