HSE issues safety alert over inadequate ‘KN95’ face masks

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The HSE has issued a warning about face masks that claim to be of KN95 standards, saying they offer inadequate protection against COVID-19.

The masks, which may also be known as filtering facepiece respirators, are likely to be of poor quality and accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork.

KN95 masks must not be used as PPE at work as their effectiveness cannot be assured, says the HSE. And those that are not CE marked and cannot be shown to be compliant must be removed from supply immediately.

KN95 is a performance rating under the Chinese standard GB2626:2006 and the requirements are broadly the same as the European standard BSEN149:2001+A1:2009 for FFP2 face masks. 

However, there is no independent certification or assurance of their quality – and products manufactured to KN95 rating are declared as compliant by the manufacturer.

Personal protective equipment cannot be supplied as PPE unless it is CE marked. The only exception is for PPE  organised by the Government for use by NHS or other healthcare workers where assessments have been undertaken by HSE.

If any masks are CE marked, suppliers must be able to demonstrate how they know the documentation and CE marking is genuine.

HSE has quarantined around 1.5 million KN95 masks, prevented 25 million items claiming to be FFP3 respirators entering the supply chain and prevented a further four lines consisting of many millions of items entering the supply chain.

Rick Brunt, HSE director of operational strategy, said: “The KN95 facemask should not be purchased or used. KN95 has not been a principal source of PPE for the NHS, who has already made the decision not to supply this respirator to frontline clinicians fighting the coronavirus pandemic.”