Kathryn Gilbertson

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Are you providing employees with adequate face masks?

Construction / 17 June 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a warning to industry, including construction that a “substantial” number of face masks claiming to meet KN95 standards are not of sufficient quality to be used safely. As part of Trading Standard’s ‘Scam Awareness Fortnight’, this year’s campaign is focussed on raising awareness of scams that have emerged as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. One such example includes the production of counterfeit or inadequate face masks.

Many non-essential retail businesses have re-opened their doors this week for the first time since March. Those organisations join the existing group of businesses faced with the difficult task of seeking to implement and enforce new COVID-19 secure measures to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus.

Some businesses are legally required or will opt to provide face masks to employees. The HSE has reported that a substantial number of face masks, claiming to attain the “KN95 standards”, provide an inadequate level of protection and are likely to be poor quality products accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork. These face masks may also be known as filtering facepiece respirators.

What is KN95?

KN95 is a performance rating under the Chinese standard GB2626:2006, the requirements of which 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 (PPE) cannot be sold or supplied as PPE unless it is CE marked. The only exception is for PPE that is organised by the UK Government for use by the NHS or other healthcare workers where assessments have been undertaken by the HSE as the Market Surveillance Authority.

Action required

You must not use and/or provide KN95 to your workforce as PPE as their effectiveness cannot be assured.

Masks that are not CE marked and cannot be shown to be compliant must be removed from supply immediately. If these masks have not been through the necessary safety assessments, their effectiveness in controlling risks to health cannot be assured for anyone using them. They are unlikely to provide the protection expected or required.

If they are CE marked, suppliers must be able to demonstrate how they know the documentation and CE marking is genuine, supported by Notified Body documentation showing compliance with the essential health and safety requirements as set out in the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (EU) 2016/425.


The HSE is already spot-checking businesses to check COVID-19 secure measures and risk assessments. If required for your business, the provision of adequate face masks that are CE mark compliant will form a critical part of your updated risk assessment. If you have not yet updated your risk assessment to ensure it covers COVID-19 secure measures, you can read our update on this here or please do get in touch.


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: mailinglists@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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