Face masks could soon come with COVID-19 rating labels

Safety standard organization ASTM International is leading an effort to establish standards for reusable face coverings.

Most construction workers and site managers are very familiar with the personal protective equipment (PPE) that helps prevent workplace injuries to the head, eyes, respiratory system and other vulnerable areas of the body, according to Construction Dive.

OSHA  requires employers to train workers on how to use the equipment appropriately. The agency can dish out major fines if employers don’t take this important step,

So, those in the construction industry are used to seeing packaging with instructions about how to use respirators and other face coverings.

The instructions available for 3M’s N95 respirator, for example, offer a brief, step-by-step tutorial, complete with photos, on how to don the equipment and make sure it’s sealed against the wearer’s skin. The material also comes with information about which OSHA standard the respirator meets and against which contaminants it protects. The packaging itself also comes with instructions.

Not so for other types of fabric face coverings that contractors have been buying and wearing as protection against the coronavirus. Generally, it’s been a free-for-all as far as the types of masks available, whether professionally manufactured or homemade. The accompanying advice on how to wear them and how well they protect the wearer varies as well.

But that could be about to change.

The PPE industry, led by safety standard organization ASTM International, is working on a standard that would specify design and performance criteria for reusable masks. The group, established in July, aims to set requirements for:

  • The general construction of masks.
  • How the mask is secured to and stays affixed to the user’s head.
  • How well masks filter out bacterial and solid particulates.
  • Inhalation and exhalation breathing resistances.
  • Size and fit testing.
  • Affixing and removing masks, sizing, cleaning and recommended period of use.

The group is also working to establish how much of this information would be displayed on mask packaging. The standard would not supplant current mask requirements for healthcare workers nor OSHA industry standards.