Urgent call for effective face masks

A coalition of workplace health and safety related organisations across Australian and New Zealand, and the ACTU have called for the urgent establishment of a register for approved respirators (aka face masks).

The group describes the presence of non-compliant, fake and faulty disposable masks as an immediate threat to the health and safety of workers.

At the launch of the coalition’s new ‘Guide to Buying P2, or Equivalent, Respirators for use in the Australian & New Zealand Work Environment’, Andrew Orfanos, President of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, said there was an immediate and urgent case for the federal government to intervene to protect Australians’ health.

“The situation is out of hand. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic our market has been flooded with more than 100 million respirators of different types and standards, and amongst the suitable products are fake, faulty, counterfeit and sub-standard products. Australian businesses are rightly confused about which ones are suitable. They need to know what they’re buying, and the government needs to get a handle on this issue,” he said.

Mr Orfanos explains that the guide has been developed to help businesses navigate their way through what is a messy issue, before purchasing face masks.

However, he warned “the guide will help, but it’s not enough. We need national leadership. Fixing the problem is straightforward if the government chooses to act. We need a register and an approval process which is properly regulated”.

Naomi Kemp, Chair of the Australian Institute of Health and Safety, explains that a person cannot assume that a face mask they purchase in Australia meets a required standard.

“Too many groups are taking advantage of a voluntary system and creating confusion. This is bad for the genuine, reputable suppliers, it’s bad for the businesses that purchase the products, and it’s bad for the people who use them” she said.

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