Lochaber PPE expert says standard issue NHS mask ‘not fit for purpose’

Niall McLean, seen here at the hand washing station set up outside Ballachulish Co-op, says the new knowledge about face masks has to be acted upon. . Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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A new study conducted by Lochaber PPE expert Niall McLean and local GP Dr James Douglas has seen a warning issued that the standard NHS face mask is ‘not fit’ for purpose when it comes to protecting people from coronavirus.

Mr McLean, from Ballachulish, and Dr Douglas, an expert in occupational health and aerosol generating procedures in industry, ran various tests on the NHS IIR mask in a Highland quarry, which included the wearing of several surgical masks in layers and blocking the sides with tape.

Masks were then exposed to five minutes of dense smoke to replicate an eight-hour shift in a medical or health care scenario.

The conclusion was that the mask will allow a patient’s exhaled air to enter the respiratory system of the healthcare worker when in close proximity.

Even modifications such as using three layers, as well as tape, still allowed smoke to be seen.

However, the study also established that the re-usable FFP3 industrial mask gave total protection.

The Confederation of British Surgery, the trade union aimed at protecting the welfare of surgeons, has said it is satisfied with the findings of the study.

The traditional surgical mask was never designed for any use other than preventing infection if a surgeon sneezed in the operating theatre.

Mr McLean, who is a director of Geo-Rope, a Scots engineering contractor for rail, highways, forestries and quarries,  told the Lochaber Times the PPE tests emerged from the starting up of a community support group in Ballachulish to look for any weaknesses in the delivery of coronavirus protection.

He said:’ If you turned up on a work site with anything less than an FFP3 mask, you’d get laughed off the site.

‘Basically this virus needs to be looked at as a hazardous substance under HSE (Health and Safety in the Workplace) legislation in the same way something like asbestos is.

‘This situation is still unfolding and we are still seeing the deaths of medical staff. But the knowledge we have now should not be wasted by the NHS, and it should be looking at this very closely.

‘I think there will be a lot of litigation surrounding the response to the virus from both the Scottish and Westminster governments.’