This Tory Government is abandoning the mitigations to protect public health. Workers need employers to robustly control Covid transmission risks even more.
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The Control of Substances Hazardous To Health Regulations specify appropriate respiratory PPE for workers when the risk of airborne exposure to harmful; substances such as Covid virus, cannot be eliminated or reduced to safe enough levels by engineering, administrative or other collective controls.
Now the Government is removing the collective control of face-covering mandate, when currently 1 in 95 people is infected, Covid is in the millions of small airborne aerosols that infected people exhale into shared air wherever people are mixing for work, so there is even more need for all workers to have PPE to FFP2 and FFP3 standard to protect them from infection at work,
The HSE knows that fluid resistant surgical masks are not PPE as their 2008 Research Report RR619 Evaluating the protection afforded by surgical masks (hse.gov.uk) https://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr619.htm showed.
RR619 Evaluating the protection afforded by surgical masks against influenza bioaerosols
The UK is preparing for a potential influenza pandemic. The main route of transmission of influenza is believed to be via direct contact with large droplets. The relative importance of aerosols in transmission is considered to be minor, but it cannot be ruled-out.
The current UK Pandemic Influenza Infection Control Guidance recommends that workers who are in close contact with patients should wear surgical masks to reduce exposure to large droplets. However, surgical masks are not intended to provide protection against infectious aerosols. The guidance recommends that procedures that are likely to generate aerosols should be minimised, or where unavoidable, workers should wear appropriate respiratory protection. There is a common misperception amongst workers and employers that surgical masks will protect against aerosols. This study aims to evaluate the relative levels of protection provided by both surgical masks and respirators against aerosols.
This study focussed on the effectiveness of surgical masks against a range of airborne particles. Using separate tests to measure levels of inert particles and live aerosolised influenza virus, our findings show that surgical masks provide around a 6-fold reduction in exposure. Live viruses could be detected in the air behind all surgical masks tested. By contrast, properly fitted respirators could provide at least a 100-fold reduction.