HSE issues safety alert about ear-loop masks

HSE guidance on masks

New research by the Health & Safety Executive has shown that ear-loop masks do not provide adequate protection against dust, even when they have tighteners.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety alert regarding masks with ear loops.

It says new HSE research has shown that respirators/masks that rely on ear loops to hold them in place do not protect adequately when used as tight-fitting respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

This includes masks that use clips, ‘snuggers’ or other means of tightening ear loops, even if they carry CE or UKCA marks.

You can read the full safety alert here.

It asks dutyholders to revisit their Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Coshh) Regulations 2002 (as amended) risk assessment and consider their RPE provision to ensure it is adequate, suitable for the user and the activity to be undertaken.

People working for stone companies and fabricators using high silica content products such as most engineered quartz, granite, sandstone, quartzite and slate are in danger of suffering from silicosis, which can be debilitating and lead to premature death. But masks are advisable in any dusty environment that cannot be avoided.

Tight-fitting RPE relies on having a good seal with the wearer’s face and those using it should have passed a ‘face fit test’ to ensure the RPE they are wearing provides the level of protection required.

For more on suitable forms of RPE, visit the HSE RPE website here.

For more information, the following publications can be downloaded free:

RPE at work: a practical guide (HSG53)

Guidance on RPE fit testing (INDG479)

HSE will be presenting a report on its research on ear loop respirators and masks at the International Society for Respiratory Protection (ISRP) online conference on 9-12 May. If you want to take part, you can register here.



Positive air pressure masks like this offer protection when working high silica content materials. HSE says ear loop masks are not adequate.