OHS Canada Magazine

PODCAST: Navigating proper mask selection and usage

Wagish Yajaman of WSPS shares best practices on respiratory PPE


Mask policies have been widely implemented across Canada as a primary way to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Usage recommendations have shifted periodically as health experts continue to learn more about this virus, including a recent shift towards three-layer masks.

Wagish Yajaman, Manager of Specialty Services with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) in Mississauga, Ont., recently joined OHS Canada editor Marcel Vander Wier on the Safe Zone podcast to discuss proper mask selection and usage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this episode, Yajaman responds to the following questions:

  • What advice might you have for employers or workers on new mask layering recommendations, as well as mask usage with regards to Ontario’s new colour coding framework?
  • Are all employees required to wear a mask? How do you determine this? What if employees or customers choose to defy public health advice?
  • Disposables, reusables, cloth, respirators — with so many options available, how should employers and safety leaders go about selecting masks for their staff?
  • What type of viable alternatives can you suggest to the N95?
  • What is current best practice for safely handling, using and disposing of face coverings?

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1 Comment » for PODCAST: Navigating proper mask selection and usage
  1. Marty Dol says:

    There are fundamental differences between a mask (all types including KN95 & surgical), and an N95 fiber filter, air-purifying, tight-fitting, respirator – I know, that’s a mouthful).

    The lines are being blurred between the protection factor, (N95) found in some NIOSH approved fiber filter, air-purifying, tight-fitting respirators, and frankly, everything else (non-NIOSH approved) including surgical masks, and they should never be compared to each other in any way, shape or form. One offers protection during exhalation, and the other offers inhalation protection for the user, and to some degree, protection for the masses, on the exhale. (Note: N95 respirators may not be certified on the exhale since a positive pressure environment is created inside a fiber filter respirator. Where the exhalation rate of particulates is very important, is with a mask.)

    Furthermore, KN95 “respirators” (having ear loops) are not a replacement for a tight-fitting N95 fiber filter respirator. The CDC stated on Nov. 11th in a report from the NPPTL titled “International Assessment Results – Not NIOSH-approved” that “only particulate filter efficiency was assessed” (omitting testing the performance of achieving a tight face seal), and “no conclusion can be made regarding equivalency to N95 products that are NIOSH approved.”

    The assessment made note that most of the products tested have an “ear loop design” and that NIOSH-approved N95 fiber filter respirators “typically have head bands. In addition the report said that “limited assessment of ear loop designs, indicate difficulty achieving a proper fit.”

    We need to stop comparing KN95, surgical masks, and face coverings of any shape or size, regardless of the number of layers, to the protection of an N95 NIOSH approved, tight-fitting respirator. Consider a KN95 to be the same as any mask, in that it will trap the expulsion of aerosols and mists from directly in front of the mouth and nose, but lets it all out around the edges of a non-tight-fitting mask.

    Go ahead and fasten your homemade mask as tight as you want, and a COVID-19 particulate the size of 1/1000th the width of a human hair, will have no problem escaping.

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