What is a Surgical Mask? Type II vs Type IIR

NPS Group’s Health and Safety Manager Nigel Halton provides some insight on the differences between the Surgical Masks available, how to wear them properly and how they can prevent the spread of viruses.

So, what is a Surgical Mask?

Surgical masks are more commonly used in healthcare settings and are manufactured to EN 14683 Standards. They are usually 3 ply construction using a layer of melt-blown anti-bacterial filter material between a fluid resistant outer layer and moisture absorbent inner layer.

Surgical masks serve 2 purposes:

  • To prevent the wearer from spreading infected droplets to patients which could be emitted by talking, normal breathing, coughing or sneezing.
  • To protect the wearer from droplets produced by sick people in close range. This mainly applies to heavier droplets which would normally fall to the ground, e.g. vomit, as opposed to smaller particles which could be airborne.

Surgical Masks are of light construction and are less claustrophobic than Filtering Face Pieces (FFP’s). They can also be worn for longer periods without suffering too much discomfort. 

Surgical Masks offer limited protection and will not fully protect the wearer from inhaling very small particles suspended in the air which potentially carry viruses. Reason for this, is that surgical masks are a loose fit and don’t form a perfect seal around the user’s face leaving gaps which can allow small particles to by-pass the filter. Other factors which can affect filtration efficiency are facial hair which can also prevent the mask from sealing around the edges. 

Wearing a surgical mask during the Covid 19 Pandemic will offer minimal protection against inhalation of infected particles but will greatly reduce the likelihood of others becoming infected if you are carrying the virus.

There are 3 types of Surgical masks available:

  • Type I: bacteria filtering effectiveness > 95%.
  • Type II: bacteria filtering effectiveness > 98%.
  • Type IIR: bacteria filtering effectiveness > 98% and splash resistant.

How do you fit a surgical mask correctly? 

4 step process to correctly fit a surgical mask

Interested in learning more about FFP Respirators and how they compare to Surgical Face Masks? Check out FFP Respirators – FFP3 vs FFP2 vs FFP1 for more information.

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