Workplaces expose workers to a variety of hazards, and workplace pollution is one of them. Workplace pollution is broadly defined as the presence of hazardous materials or noises that might affect the people working in that environment. Such pollutants are believed to pose critical health issues, especially for the professionals working in pollution-inducing environments for a longer period of time. Of all other forms of pollution, the most common type of pollution that people are exposed to is air pollution. Air pollution at the workplace can constitute the presence of particulate matter, and harmful gases disperse in the air.
Professionals working in various kinds of industrial units, mills, production and manufacturing units, mines, auto garages, workshops, etc are usually more prone to developing air pollution-related health conditions. Some of the common ways of getting affected by pollutants can happen in several ways, including:
- Breathing polluted air
- Coming in direct contact with corrosive or toxic material
- Accidentally ingesting toxic chemicals or polluted water/air
These kinds of exposures pose hazardous health conditions for the workers, and these health conditions can deteriorate over a period of time if timely precautions and safety measures are not followed. One of the best ways of protection against workplace pollution, especially air pollution is the use of protective measures like masks and face shields. However, surgical masks and cloth masks do not prove to be fairly efficient against pollution, which is why N95 masks are fast becoming the go-to personal protective equipment for occupational safety.
Why choose N95 respirator mask for Occupational Safety?
Several studies have shown that masks are significantly efficient in blocking air pollutants like gases and particulate matter. Not just that, they are also effective in environments where there is a high risk of exposure to several airborne infections including shared professional workplaces, public spaces, shops, schools, theatres, etc. Even though there are a variety of masks available that can help in protecting professionals from workplace pollution, the N95 respirator has been found to be one of the most effective in blocking unwanted pollutants in the air. It is believed that N95 blocks 95 percent of fine particles, making it highly effective against various airborne pollutants, apart from, of course providing protection from the COVID-19 virus.
One of the key components of an N95 mask is its efficient seal that covers the face in such a way that there are no loose ends on either side of the face. Still, the design of the mask is such that it doesn’t make breathing any difficult, making it ideal for essential workers as well as frontline workers who may need to wear them for extended periods of time.
Your masks should be breathable, creating such a space that it is far from the nose and mouth so that it doesn’t create a suffocating feeling. This is all the more important for masks that are used outdoors during long working hours. This is why the N95 respirator is such an effective option as its design provides ample breathing space thanks to a specially designed clip that sits comfortably on the nose bridge and poses no discomfort even if it is worn for long hours during challenging, and physically demanding conditions.
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Efficacy Against Top Pollutants
Most masks that are supposed to provide full protection from air pollution are tested against different parameters and they should be able to provide 95 percent efficacy against the following airborne particles:
- PM 10
- PM 2.5
- Harmful Particles such as Pollen
- Mold Spores
- Common Dust and Other Small Particles
- Respiratory Droplets
And the N95 respirator has been found to effectively filter all the above-mentioned particles, thanks to its relatively high filtration efficiency of over 95%. It is for this reason that N95 respirators are recommended by medical experts
One of the best features of an N95 respirator mask is its design. All good masks are supposed to have a design that comfortably sits on the contours of your face and is made of high-quality fabric or silicon, making them ideal for everyday wear. This kind of design helps protect fine matter from entering inside the mask, thus protecting you from air pollutants. This makes double masking, if required, rather convenient.
An adjustable strap on the top of the N95 mask makes it easier to seal on the top of your nose so that there are no loose ends there. This is an adjustable strap complete with elastic ear loops that can be tightened or loosened according to comfort and safety requirements, making it a rather comfortable face covering.
N95 respirators manufactured by renowned companies such as 3M are duly approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as completely effective for preventing influenza and other infectious diseases such as COVID-19, when worn properly and adhered to while following other protective measures such as social distancing. Across the world, centres for disease control and prevention have also deemed N95 masks as the best protection equipment against such diseases.
What does the research say about N95 masks?
The world woke up to the importance of face masks only recently after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement saying that “Masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives.”
Consequently, face coverings became one of the most important safety nets against the deadly virus, not only for health care personnel, but for the general population, as well as with respect to occupational safety and health.
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So, there has been limited research done on the effectiveness of N95 masks, but the ones that have been done provide satisfactory data to reinstate the fact that these masks are effective against air pollution and can become efficient tools for professionals working in hazardous conditions owing to their high filtration efficacy. Hence, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the N95 has been rendered as the best mask for delta variant of one of the most infectious diseases we have ever faced – COVID 19.
Most of the studies have been done in China (ironically, of course). However, the results are quite positive. In one of the studies performed in Beijing, the blood pressure of those wearing the N95 respirators was measured a lot under control against the ones who were not wearing any mask or were using surgical masks it cloth masks. It was also observed that the blood flow and oxygen delivery to the heart was much better in those wearing the N95. Another study in Shanghai showed results that were quite similar results to the above-mentioned study.
The two studies reinstate the fact that wearing a particle-filtering mask for health care workers and other professionals alike can considerably reduce the effect and impact of the particulate matter on blood pressure and the heart’s health.
Workplaces can pose different challenges and can impact the health of the workers in the long term. It is important to protect oneself from workplace pollution and remain vigilant in how you prepare yourself for these challenges. And one of the best ways to protect yourself from airborne pollutants is to wear masks, and more preferably N95 respirators. It has been observed that it is an efficient tool providing suitable protection from hazardous conditions at the workplace. We all have understood the importance of good health, and there is no reason why you should not make the simple effort of wearing a face mask to protect yourself from something that can have a long-lasting impact on your health.
Frequently Asked Questions About N95 Respirator Masks
When and how should an N95 mask be worn?
N95 respirator masks need to be worn by workers when they are likely to be exposed to harmful airborne contaminants at the workplace. In order for the mask to provide the requisite level of protection, it is essential for the employees to make a tight seal covering the user’s mouth and nose. After all, when worn properly, these masks provide significantly more protection.
Is it the employer’s responsibility to provide N95 masks?
In case the workplace is such that it is crucial for employees’ health and well-being to wear N95 masks, the employer is required to provide the necessary respiratory protection. In case, it is voluntary, the employer may either ask the workers to get their own surgical masks or cloth masks or simply provide them as and when requested by the employees.