Respiratory Protection Unmasked: A Guide to COVID-19 Respiratory Protection Strategies

Stay Informed

With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, health agencies have strengthened their messaging around the importance of wearing a mask, but the variety of face-covering options can be daunting. How do these respiratory protection options compare in terms of performance?

Navigating the Variety of Face-Coverings:
KN95, N95, and Surgical Masks 

KN95 or surgical mask – what’s more effective?

Hands down, the KN95 does a better job of filtering airborne particles, protecting the mask wearer and those close by. The KN95 seals more tightly around the face – especially around the nose and chin (where most leaks occur). Most KN95 masks have more fabric layers, providing greater filtering power.

How comparable are KN95 face masks to N95s?

They are comparable in air filtering performance and protection. In light of N95 shortages, the FDA has granted the KN95 emergency usage authorization (EUA). This means designated (found in Appendix A) KN95 face masks can be used when N95 respirators are unavailable due to COVID demand. 

When compared side-by-side, KN95 face masks meet or exceed 95 percent filtration efficiency, performing comparably to N95 respirators.

Can I use a KN95 for dust and particulate protection?

In most situations, yes. If you have exceeded your OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL), you must properly fit test your KN95 per your existing Respiratory Protection Program. Just remember, OSHA’s emergency use authorization is only applicable during the COVID crisis when N95 respirators are in short supply and you have exhausted all other respiratory options available.

Learn More From Our Experts

Which face-covering options only prevent the spread of COVID-19? Which options actively protect the wearer while preventing spread?

In our recent webinar, one of Conney Safety’s respiratory protection experts reviewed current recommendations from top infectious disease experts and provided guidance on navigating the sea of face mask options currently on the market. Watch this webinar on-demand to learn how effective your mask is at protecting you from COVID-19.

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