It goes without saying that a) I don’t think we should be onsite, b) I think that mask wearing should be the norm, and c) I wish so very much we were on an alternate timeline. But we’re not, and many HE staff will be going back in to teach, work in hubs and libraries, in close proximity to students and others. Teaching presents particular risks as we all know. With that in mind, I’ve done a short blog post below on FFP masks and where you can get them.
FFP3 is the highest grade of protection widely available. Most FFP3 masks that I’ve found in the past have been valved; as people know, valved masks don’t protect others, only the wearer. There are however unvalved FFP3 masks. Screwfix does a box of 20 RESPAIR FFP3 masks for £54.99 – which is mega expensive. They are fold flat, don’t have valves, and have strong elastic. At the moment, they’re showing as click and collect only, but Screwfix products tend to do this when in high demand. I’ve had them delivered in the past couple of weeks.
Screwfix have a range of other options, all valved. The valved foldflats are available in packs of 2 for £2.99. Again – currently showing as click and collect, but I’ve had them delivered in the past. There are a range of moulded mask options too. In my experience, some mouldes are more difficult to make yourself understood through – the Delta Plus 5 packs are £14.99, and you can tighten the straps for a close fit. This is a bit of a balancing act as too tight and you can hurt your face, but you want it tight enough for a good seal. As ever, if like me you have facial hair either a) get rid or b) trim it tightly enough that it doesn’t interfere with the seal (I now have a goatee which doesn’t touch the seal). There are a range of other mouldeds available, but I should also mention one which isn’t – the 3M Aura FFP3 respirator. For some CEV people and friends of mine this is their preferred mask, and they accomodate different face types well. However they are very expensive at £9.99 a go. Also good to bear in mind if you try to source them from elsewhere that 3M do an FFP2 version that looks EXACTLY the same so be clear on what you’re buying.
Wickes also do FFP masks, including a foldflat FFP3 mask (though they are currently out of stock).
UPDATED: Catriona Gold also suggests Medisave.
and David Chivnall recommends looking at commercial suppliers.
FFP2 masks don’t offer the same level of filtration as FFP3 (as you’ll know) but they are more widely available and can often be sourced in decent quantities. Medisana foldflats come in boxes of 5, 10, or 25 and are individually wrapped and critically have a hook on the straps to ensure a good fit (most FFP2 don’t have this). I wouldn’t normally recommend buying from Amazon but in the cirucmstances I’ll note that they are available there at this link.
Wickes stock Royd FFP2 foldflats in boxes of 5 for £15. These are generally tighter than Medisana and I struggle to keep them on my face without a clip (and the ear loops are not long) but I have a large head (no jokes please).
Things to think about
Moulded masks are often easier to get hold of than foldflats, but if you go with mouldeds as with foldflats ensure there is a good seal. Get different types of mask to see which is most comfortable for you. If you have to teach in a mask, then test out speaking in one before you try it for real. I find it difficult to make myself understood through some masks, so it’s worth seeing what works for you (and also worth bearing in mind that I have an accent some are unfamiliar with, so my experience isn’t typical necessarily). Finally, I’ve leaned on Screwfix and Wickes above because you know what you’re getting. Lots of KN95/FFP2 masks are available via various sellers, but be careful that what you get is legit. Catriona and David both mention the fit issue – Catriona recommends some solutions.
James Sumner makes the good point that it is worth working out what is better for you in practice.
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