A fake KN95-marked mask identified by British authorities (Photo: BOHS)

July 29, 2020

Tradies have been warned that fake half-face disposable respirators have been sold in Australia which may not protect them against hazardous dusts and chemicals.

WorkCover Queensland issued a safety alert on Wednesday to assist businesses to identify fake and non-certified respirators.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for half-face disposable masks and filters.

“As a result, some industries have had difficulty getting disposable respirators used for protection against dusts and chemicals including silica, asbestos and lead,” the alert stated.

“This extra demand is leading to fake respiratory protective equipment (RPE) entering the Australian market.”

WorkCover said that most disposable respirators and filters in Australia that give protection against dusts and other particles are classified and marked as P1, P2 or P3, in accordance with the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1716:2012.

There are also international standards for the classification of these respirators – United States N95, European FFP2 and Chinese KN95 – considered equivalent to the Australian P2 and acceptable in Australian workplaces. 

WorkCover said that masks that are compliant to AS/NZS 1716:2012 have the manufacturer’s name, trade name or mark on the mask or facepiece and filters have the manufacturer’s name, trade name or mark, and the filter classification (P1, P2 or P3).

Many companies that manufacture RPE are certified by an independent body, such as SAI Global, and normally have their licence number marked on the packaging that the RPE is supplied in.

All RPE used in the United States must be certified by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which maintains a list of approved RPE. Some of these masks are imported into Australia.

WorkCover advised that before buying RPE, make sure it meets the Australian Standard or international equivalent, especially if there is doubt about performance claims.

Get product certificates from the manufacturer that certify the RPE has been manufactured in accordance with AS/NZS 1716: 2012 or an equivalent international standard.

Check the product certificates issued by a certifying body are genuine.

They will have a licence number and the manufacturer’s name which can be found on the certifying body’s website, along with a list of the licensed models of respirators and filters.

If using N95 respirators, check this NIOSH list for all the approved United States N95 disposable respirators.

WorkCover said it could be hard to distinguish a genuine mask from a fake mask. Examples of fake masks are on the WorkCover Qld website

British authorities have also warned that a substantial number of face masks imported into the United Kingdom, claiming to be of KN95 standard, provide an inadequate level of protection and are likely to be poor quality products accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork.

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