Last reviewed 12 June 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a new safety alert warning all employers and suppliers not to purchase or use KN95 facemasks as personal protective equipment (PPE).

In the safety alert, published on Thursday 11 June 2020, the health and safety watchdog explained that KN95 is a performance rating that is broadly equivalent to the EU standard for FFP2 facemasks.

Products manufactured to KN95 requirements rely on a self-declaration of compliance by the manufacturer. There is no independent certification or assurance of their quality.

However, the KN95 respirator has been identified as suspect by the HSE’s experts and locally arranged testing has confirmed they would not meet requirements, including to protect against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The HSE says that about 90% of the PPE concerns and queries that it is currently receiving involve KN95 masks which are often accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork.

In response to the problem, the HSE has quarantined around 1.5 million KN95 masks, prevented 25 million items claiming to be FFP3 respirators entering the supply chain and prevented a further 4 lines consisting of many millions of items entering the supply chain.

The safety alert does not relate to N95 masks which are manufactured to a US Standard and have been given permission for use specifically in UK healthcare settings.

Addressing the issue, Rick Brunt, HSE’s Director of Operational Strategy said, “The KN95 facemask should not be purchased or used.

“KN95 has not been a principal source of PPE for the NHS, who has already made the decision not to supply this respirator to frontline clinicians fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have found that the lack of independent testing has contributed to there being a substantial quantity of inadequate and poor-quality masks on the market, claiming to comply with the KN95 standard.

“We understand a lot of people, mainly in sectors outside of healthcare, have bought these facemasks without realising they are non-compliant. We are concerned that people wearing them are not being protected from breathing in harmful substances in the way they expect. Protective equipment must protect.”

A full copy of the alert can be accessed via the HSE’s website.