Wearing face coverings has sparked much debate since its appearance in the community last March. Almost a year after the official start of the pandemic in Canada, the accessory that appears to be symbolic of the health crisis is continually evolving.
The many positions and retractions of governments regarding its necessity and effectiveness, as well as a multitude of recommendations from more or less informed sources, have contributed to the rapid development of an accessory whose scope we never could have anticipated last spring. It is available today in several models, textures, and colours, and priced to meet all budgets; however, many questions remain unanswered as to the level of protection that non-medical face coverings provide.
From the start of the pandemic, Vestechpro has developed in-depth expertise in medical masks and non-medical face coverings. Through research, design, production and communication activities, the Centre has contributed to the development of high-performance protective accessories. The first face coverings intended for general use were made expediently when little information on the subject was available. Today, we are able to see that the needs, as well as protection standards have become clearer, and that the available offering tends to respond to new consumption habits.
By changing its guidelines on non-medical masks in June, the World Health Organization (WHO) added another chapter to the history of face coverings. The accessory should now consist of two layers of woven fabric (e.g. cotton or linen), and a third central layer of filtering material (non-woven polypropylene). The need to add this extra thickness to block smaller infectious particles has emerged thanks to new scientific studies on the coronavirus and more specifically, on the size of droplets projected in the air. Canadian and Quebec public health authorities chose to adhere to this WHO guideline last month.
Furthermore, recent work carried out by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) suggests that certain performance standards for non-medical face coverings almost reach those of medical masks. If these standards are established, approved by the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) and made available to manufacturers and users, it would become easier to produce a safe non-medical face covering and to allow for individual choices when purchasing.
The improvement in non-medical face covering performance is motivated by the achievement of the following objectives:
1) Provide workers for whom the wearing of a medical mask has become compulsory in the workplace, a non-medical mask but just as effective as a medical mask, a face covering that can have three layers and has received a performance certificate from a certified organization;
2) Reduce the use of certified medical masks in limited quantities in order to reserve them for health sector staff;
3) Improve the effectiveness of homemade masks, in general.
In the wake of conclusions of work done by the IRSST, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec mandated the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) and the BNQ to develop a document attesting to new reusable or single-use non-medical masks for workplaces recognized by the CNESST. The booklet: BNQ 1922-900 Non-medical masks for the workplace - Attestation document scheduled for publication in December 2020 will inform us about the quality and performance criteria as well as testing methods for new non-medical masks and will serve as a reference for companies to ensure and list product conformity.
Consequently, the BNQ will be able to offer a non-medical face covering certificate presenting a performance equivalent to procedural masks shortly. At the invitation of the BNQ, Vestechpro participated in the targeted consultation phase to comment on the document and help build consensus in the community.
The sustained demand for non-medical face coverings continues to encourage development of many applied research projects, the results of which will benefit the community and workers. Vestechpro is actively cooperating in the development of this accessory which has quickly become a classic among essential accessories in 2020… and in 2021!
Would you like to be supported in a personal protective equipment production project? Please contact us at: [email protected]
References: Non medical masks - BNQ