• Ian Clark
    Hi, I have a number of people asking "what to do"
    Surgical masks being used and workers instructed to use these rather that their own material mask. The workers have complained about skin irritation, increased skin lip sensitivity and development of a rash, and skin acne. The workers has been informed they can be asked to use the mask and also have the right to say why they cannot. In one case the worker left the location as the company would not accept a cloth mask. As NZ moves to lower alert levels (positive thought) a mask is becoming a common request at the point of entry. A lot of the skin issues can be linked to the moisture collected in the mask when a person breaths. What is not clear is the useable timeframe of these masks. If a person is using them for an 8 hour day in customer service should they have how many (4,6,8) masks changes per day?
    Are there any low irritant surgical masks? Are there other non allergenic mask made with skin condition a consideration in the development of the mask.
    What to do now the risk has been recognised yet the control not accepted by PCBU's? Thoughts
  • Stuart Oakey
    Hi Ian

    It sounds like an allergy to latex or other material in the surgical masks. Interesting to know why the instruction is to use a surgical mask rather than cloth? Surgical ones are nothing special just 2 layers of fabric. The medical 'duckbill' mask has a round the mouth & nose fit and requires a fit test (in healthcare ). At least cloth masks can be washed regularly unlike the disposable ones. The MoH guidance is when a mask becomes soiled or wet it should be replaced. There are latex free medical masks, but not sure how widely available they are, you'd need to find a medical PPE supplier - I think there's one in Wanganui.

    Hope this helps
  • Steffan St Clair-Newman
    Hi Ian
    Due to our working environment we have to wear masks on our sites and working in a cool-store type environment leads to several issues with masks, we have to follow the direction of an Association due to Auditing reasons, and they state only N95,P2 type can be used or 3 ply medical masks. As you can imagine no matter what mask we use, they get damp fast, fog up glasses and cause other issues, however we have no option but to wear them and some of the team are changing their masks 4 - 5 times daily which leads to the need to purchase excessive amounts of face masks, the Association also states cloth masks cannot be worn - which is annoying as you can get replaceable filters for some of the cloth masks to make them last longer, so in short, our guidance to our teams is...once it becomes TOO damp and hard to breath, dispose and replace.
  • Derek Miller
    Hi Ian
    For time frame non is set down but good practice is to make sure it is well fitting (ie doesn't rub against the skin), have a 15 min break every 4 hrs from wearing a mask and think about using a moisturiser. This adds a protective layer that can reduce the dryness that comes from wearing a mask and no make-up as that clogs the skin pores and can cause flare ups. If using a cloth mask then avoid synthetics if posible, as these can iritate the skin, and go for cotton alsso watch you hydration as often people are dehyrdated when they come to work which means their skin could already be dry and more suitable to becoming itchy. As Steffan said above replace when they become to hard to breathe through an dif using washable ones then launder daily.
    There are diiffernt styles of mask out there so always worth trying different typoes and styles to find best one.
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