What face mask should I use if I work in a factory?

What face mask should I use if I work in a factory?

Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.

Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.

Please submit your questions to debfromqa@mxdusa.org

Updated March 5, 2021.

Dear Deb: What face mask should I use if I work in a factory?

I know many of you work in factories, in close proximity to others, and sometimes in sweltering conditions. It’s not the most comfortable thing. 

But to slow the transmission of COVID-19, we should all still be wearing masks at work. 

Masks — when worn correctly — help contain the sneezing-coughing-breathing-talking fluids of you the mask-wearer. They also protect you from other people’s airborne COVID-19 droplets. 

It does not make you completely safe (there may be leakage through a loose-fitting cloth or blue surgical mask, for example). But the efficacy of mask-wearing grows as more people wear them. 

It’s important to remember that whether your company requires N95 respirator masks (which can be hard to find these days) or cloth masks, the key is finding a sturdy mask that you can wear correctly. (Last week I saw a delivery person drop off a package with the mask hanging on his chin! Uh, wrong way to wear one.) 

A few pointers: 

1) Your mask should cover from the top of your nose to below your chin. 

2) An N95 gives the best protection, but do not use an N95 with a vent,

3) If you can’t find an N95 mask, a surgical mask or cloth mask with multiple layers of fabric also protects you, and 

4) A mask should fit snugly against your face. 

In February 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research showing how important fit is. Why? Because the virus can get in or out around the edges of a mask. 

The CDC’s advice for maximum protection if you don’t have an N95 mask? Wear two masks: a cloth mask over a surgical mask. Or “knot and tuck” a surgical mask so it fits closer to your face. 

Also, tighten the metal piece (if your mask has one) against the bridge of your nose and fully cover all facial hair — otherwise the virus can sneak through. And make sure double-masking doesn’t make it too difficult to breathe or obstruct your field of vision leading you to trip or fall.  

Here’s more guidance from the CDC. 

Factories can be stiflingly hot; I get it. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, one trick I’ve used to keep cool is to take a paper towel dampened with cold water and wrap it on the back of my neck.

Of course, other rules of engagement also apply: Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, cough into your elbow, don’t touch your face, use hand sanitizer, etc.

A good organization will have implemented a protocol for face masks in accordance with state laws. My friends at MxD have done this, and you can read about it here. If you need more guidance, the government Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a helpful resource about face masks on its website.

The important thing is that everyone around you should wear a mask and wear it correctly. Stopping the spread of infectious diseases really is a team effort. 

Assuring quality,

Check out last week’s Ask Deb here:
Should my kids go into manufacturing?

Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to debfromqa@mxdusa.org and she’ll answer as soon she’s done with her shift.