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    Science of Safety Podcast: Episode 79.

    June 25, 2020



    Science of Safety Podcast.

    Episode 79:
    Surgical masks versus respirators.

    Science of Safety Podcast.

    Episode 79:
    Surgical masks versus respirators.

    Science of Safety Podcast.

    Episode 79:
    Surgical masks versus respirators.

    In this episode, Terry Gorman, 3M’s Lead Application Engineer for the Personal Safety Division in Australia and New Zealand joins host Mark Reggers to discuss surgical masks and respirators, and the difference between them.

    Surgical masks and respirators may look similar, with the names often used interchangeably. However, when it comes to respiratory protection, they are quite different. They each perform different roles that offer varying levels of protection in a diverse range of applications, and it’s important to understand when and where they are used.




    Guest Bio:

    Terry Gorman (pictured left) is a Certified Occupational Hygienist who has been involved in workplace safety for nearly 30 years. He has worked for 3M Australia and New Zealand in the Personal Safety Division for 18 years.

    Terry is a current member of the Australian/New Zealand Standard Committees responsible for respiratory protection (AS/NZS 1715 & 1716) as well as the Eye/Face Protection Standards Committee (AS/NZS 1337 & 1338).

    He currently represents Standards Australia on the International Standards Organisation (ISO) Committee TC94/SC15, a team of international specialists creating a set of global respiratory standards.

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    In this episode, Mark & Terry discuss the following:

    • What is the difference between a surgical mask and a respirator?
    • Is there a specific Australian standard for surgical masks used in health care settings?
    • Are there different types or levels of surgical masks?
    • Are these different levels tested for filtration efficiency like a respirator?
    • Do surgical masks have to be approved by other bodies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) before being used in a healthcare setting?
    • Do respirators used in health care settings also have to be approved by the TGA?
    • What kind of tests are respirators put through to meet the requirements of AS/NZS 1715?
    • When or where would a rated respirator, not a surgical mask, be required in a healthcare setting?
    • What other types of respirators other than disposable would be used in health care settings?
    • For infectious diseases associated with small particulates like bacteria or viruses that can be transferred by aerosols and droplets (as well as other methods), e.g. Ebola, influenza A etc., would a surgical mask or respirator be more suitable?
    • Can you get a product that is both rated as a surgical mask and a respirator?
    • How long will a rated respirator used in healthcare settings last, i.e. how often should they be changed?
    • Do respirators used in healthcare settings have the same requirements to be clean-shaven, trained, fit-tested etc.?
    • It’s common to see people in Australia and many Asian countries wearing surgical style mask to protect against air pollution. What level of protection would a surgical mask that doesn’t seal the face be providing?
    • Where can people go to get further information on surgical masks and respirators?

    Surgical masks and respirators protect workers in a range of environments, be it healthcare or industrial settings. In industrial settings a respirator is required to filter out airborne contaminants, in healthcare situations, there are times when surgical masks are needed to serve as a physical barrier, or as a respirator when dealing with infectious patients. People, be it workers or the general public must ensure they use the appropriate respiratory protective equipment for the application at hand, for their health and safety and those around them. Tune in as we look at surgical masks versus respirators and the difference between them, how they work and when they are used to ensure you get the protection you need in your workplace.


    Additional Resources:

    Contact a 3M Safety Specialist at scienceofsafetyanz@mmm.com for more information.