Warning on fake and unsuitable COVID-19 face masks

18 May 2020

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has warned that some manufacturers are selling medical face masks and other fake personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers using false certificates and that other A4-sized face shields, made in good faith by communities to help frontline workers, could be unsafe because they are too narrow.

The concerns about the fake personal protective equipment (PPE) certificates were raised recently by the standards body as it urged healthcare organisations to be sure certificates are genuine.

The BSI says there are three ways to verify that the certificate is genuine.

  1. If the organisation has the original digital copy of the certificate in pdf form, then it is possible to find the link at the bottom of the certificate, click on it and check the validity.

  2. Using the BSI VerifEye Directory it is possible to look up the corresponding certificate. Organisations should enter the name of the company or the certificate number in the Directory.

  3. A third option is to send the digital version of the certificate to the email address product.certification@bsigroup.com (this should be the official certificate). The BSI can then perform a check to find out if the certificate is genuine.

The BSI also recently told the BBC that some A4-sized face shields being made by communities to help frontline workers do not always protect workers properly.

With the shortage of PPE in the headlines, people have started using 3D-printing and laser-cut designs to make masks.

Some incorporate A4-sized acetate transparent paper, designed for overhead projectors, to make the visor.

Nathan Shipley, PPE Group Certification Manager at the BSI told the BBC, “People are trying to use materials that are readily available. Using acetates from an overhead projector is a quick fix, but the width of the acetate screens isn't wide enough.

“Some people say, 'any PPE is better than no PPE', but if you are wearing something you think will protect you and it won't, you are in more danger.”