It’s been four months since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, and by now, it’s clear that people who are infected can spread this virus even before symptoms appear.
Since the beginning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been encouraging the use of face masks. Countries all over the world have been making it mandatory for their citizens to wear face masks while out in public places.
So, if your business is set to reopen, employee’s safety and health should be your prime concern. With proper post Covid SOPs in place, most of the part is done, but there are some minor details which need to be taken care of.
Face mask as it is the most important tool to stop the spread needs careful considerations.
By now, you probably know how to use a face mask and you’ve probably seen how these masks are being made. At first, companies and even fashion labels stepped in to make face masks for free for people, but now, as economies and borders open up, face masks are becoming the norm and are being sold.
If you are a small business with fewer than 20 employees, buying readily available masks is the best way to go. But if you have more employees, making your own will be an ideal solutions. However, in both the case, you must know the right type of masks that people at your workplace need.
There are two main things you need to remember about face masks. These are:
1- Masks, especially homemade ones, do offer some level of protection. At the end of the day, some protection is better than no protection at all. The main benefit of homemade masks is to reduce the chances of someone unknowingly passing the virus on to other people.
Think about getting splashed by a car driving through a puddle. By wearing clothes, you have given one layer of protection to your skin against getting wet from the puddle. It’s the same thing as face masks – you add a layer of protection. So, having better masks will ensure workplace safety.
2- Face masks not only prevent the spread of coronavirus, but it also prevents the spread of other common ailments such as the cold and flu. It’s good infection control and believe or not, many countries in Asia wear face masks, anyway, for this purpose – to safeguard themselves and the people around them.
Now, we come down to how to choose a face mask. As you know, plenty of companies and manufacturers are banking on this new trend, and sure enough, there will be plenty of face masks to choose from. But then, what’s an effective face mask?
Here’s a brief explanation of what government agencies and healthcare experts tell us about the science behind getting the right face masks.
Choosing or Making a Mask
The principal concern to remember is that even a simple face mask helps. According to the CDC, a mask made out of a clean t-shirt, even with no sewing involved, is better than nothing. When choosing or making a mask, here are some expert advice on making the most basic face-covering effect. These elements are:
The way you’d layer up in cold weather is the same as layering fabric for your face mask. Multiple layers are better than one. For instance, masks made by Just Vision IT is two-ply. A surgical mask has 3-ply. Dr. Susan Sokolowski, Director of Sports Product Design from the University of Oregon, says that if you’re making homemade masks, adding a middle layer such as a coffee filter helps make the mask more effective. You can always leave one side unstitched to change the filters and wash your masks.
Choose the Right Fabric
Different types of fabric have better potential of filtering out viruses, particles, dirt, and dust than others. The general rule of thumb is that the denser and thicker the fabric, the better the filtering. 100% cotton fabrics work better than loosely woven ones for inner layers. Materials that are used to make tea towels, or antimicrobial pillowcases, and even cotton-blend fabrics do a good job compared to a silk scarf, for instance. Make sure that your mask is comfortable, washable, and also has tightly knitted fabric. Athletic clothing usually has polyester, spandex-cotton, or nylon, which makes it wick away moisture from your breath.
The mask’s outer layer can be made out of a high tread count material, somewhere at 320 thread count, such as a bedsheet or a cotton shirting fabric, as long as they are tightly woven and washable.
If you’re not sure if your fabric is densely woven, just hold it up against the light. The less light that gets through means that the fabric has a tighter weave. Don’t use threadbare sheets or t-shirts that are too old and have seen better days. While using your old shirts is a great idea to reuse fabric, use discretion when selecting the ones you want to use for your masks. Read product descriptions of the mask you’re buying, whether in a store or online, so you know that it meets these criteria:
- Made using tightly woven fabric
- Comes in multiple layers
- Is washable
- Has easy-to-secure, elastic earloops
It Has a Good Fit
Ideally, your mask should be covering your nose and mouth, wrapping under the bottom of your chin and reaching an inch or more past the ends of your mouth. Dr. Sokolowski says that the mask should fit snugly around your nose and mouth and not inhibit breathing.
The Bottom Line
Choosing a face mask isn’t rocket science. It’s fairly easy to look at the basic elements of what makes a good mask. Fashionable elements, branding, and how pretty, cute, or nice it looks should be secondary elements when it comes to choosing and buying or making a mask for your employees or for selling purposes.
Another thing to remember is that the CDC recommends that normal people stick to cloth masks and keep the N95 and medical masks for frontliners, medical and healthcare workers, as these are in short supply.
N95 masks and surgical masks are only effective when their edges are well-sealed against the skin and worn right. That said, if you do want to use surgical masks or the N95 mask, the same precautions exist the same as using a cloth mask. These precautions are:
- Don’t touch the mask while wearing it.
- Use only the ties or elastic bands to remove them from your face.
- Don’t place your mask under your chin. Remove it completely if eating.
- Wash and sanitize your hands often and before putting your masks on.
- Make sure to wash and keep your masks clean.
- Masks have a short shelf life. While most of them are meant to be used only once, washable masks can last for a minimum of 15 washes.
- Discard your masks the proper way – in bins.