Previously, protective masks were only mandatory on construction sites under certain conditions. Since the spread of the coronavirus in Germany, the situation on construction sites has become more acute in this respect. Against the background of continued construction activity and changes in occupational health and safety measures during the pandemic, respiratory masks are also increasingly required in the construction industry.
Empty markets for protective masks and supply bottlenecks make it difficult for construction companies to provide their employees with the necessary respiratory protection and mouth and nose protection. More and more contractors are, therefore looking for alternatives. But what do respiratory masks against the coronavirus need to be considered, and when do they have to be used on construction sites?
WHEN IS A BREATHING MASK NEEDE ON A CONSTRUCTION SITE?
In general, employers on construction sites must provide employees with the necessary work equipment following the German Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) and the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV). On construction sites, respiratory protection is part of the personal protective equipment (PPE), which only has to be worn when handling hazardous substances such as dust and asbestos or solvents and in contaminated areas. These must be respiratory masks with particle or activated carbon filters.
Since the coronavirus has spread, the following additional protective measures must be taken if the protective distance of 1.50 metres is not reached:
- When working outdoors
If the protective distance cannot be maintained when working outdoors or in unenclosed rooms (a shell with appropriate air circulation), mouth-and-nose protection or a full visor (protective shield reaching from the forehead to under the chin) must be worn.
- When working in closed rooms
If work is carried out in closed rooms where the safety distance cannot be maintained, a mouth-nose guard must be worn. Class FFP 1 respirators are recommended, if available.
- When working in closed rooms with confined spaces
Work in enclosed spaces with controlled conditions includes, for example, silos, shafts, ducts, containers and pipelines. If the recommended safety distance cannot be maintained here, class FFP 2 respirators or motor-assisted respiratory protection (e.g. turbo hat or turbo mask) should be used. In general, it should be checked in advance, whether it is necessary to carry out this work at the moment.
If the appropriate protective clothing for mouth and nose is not available and the specifications cannot be met, the work must not be carried out at this time.
Did you know?
In cooperation with the BAuA, BG BAU, Das Deutsche Baugewerbe and others, a website has been created that provides concrete tips on how to handle hazardous substances on construction sites. Here you will find numerous and up-to-date information sheets on industry solutions and advice for action.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PROTECTIVE MASKS?
BG BAU has compiled a detailed decision-making aid for companies in the construction industry, which provides basic information on which respiratory protection on the construction site includes protection against coronaviruses and in what way, and what standard marking they have.
The simplest variants of respiratory protection are self-produced protective masks made of paper, handkerchiefs, knitted or fabric. These masks offer virtually no protection against coronaviruses. Only with fabric masks is it assumed that bystanders are protected in the event of possible infection of the wearer, as the latter sneezes or coughs into the mask.
The loose-fitting mouth-nose protection masks are better known as surgical masks. Respiratory protection prevents employees from contaminating their surroundings with exhaled droplets but does not provide sufficient virus protection for the wearer himself. However, breathing is more comfortable when using respiratory protection masks because they do not fit tightly.
FFP masks offer the best protection for the wearer and their surroundings. Depending on the FFP class (1 to 3), these masks filter even small particles and droplets from the ambient air. The FFP class 1 and 2 masks offer greater wearing comfort because they have an exhalation valve. Class 3 respirators do not have an exhalation valve, but they do provide reliable protection against coronaviruses and influenza.
Mouth and nose protection masks are increasingly being used to protect the environment. This simple protection will probably become even more important when the measures to contain the coronavirus are relaxed again. If all employees comply with the rules of distance and hygiene and wear such a protective mask on the construction site, this is a recommended protective combination – but it does not replace PPE. Companies should make sure that they instruct their employees in the correct use of mouth-and-nose protection. BG BAU offers a suitable poster to support this.
WHAT SHOULD YOU PAY ATTENTION TO WHEN BUYING PROTECTIVE MASKS FOR CONSTRUCTION SITES?
Empty markets or high prices, that’s the first impression, because everyone who wants to buy protective masks at the moment gets them. BG BAU also warns its members that since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, many counterfeit products have been in circulation that does not provide the necessary protection. Many products that are produced in Asian countries and distributed via the Internet do not comply with German certification standards.
When these respiratory masks are used on the construction site, they are equivalent to simple mouth and nose protection and do not meet the requirements of PPE. Therefore, when purchasing protective masks for their construction sites, entrepreneurs should pay particular attention to the certification marks. Besides, the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) maintains a database of all products tested, which is updated regularly.
When purchasing respiratory protection for construction sites, the regulations for PPE should, therefore, continue to be taken into account. Protection against dust, asbestos, solvents and in contaminated areas also remains important. Paper towels, self-made mouth-nose protection and surgical masks are not suitable for this work. Homemade masks can only serve as protection if several employees are travelling in a car or are in the break room.
Lumiform’s mobile app application helps companies to keep track of and comply with the necessary protective measures. For example, a risk analysis of the work to be carried out can be carried out, and the corresponding assessments can be shared immediately with other responsible and affected parties. The evaluation makes it easier to select the right PPE or protective mask.