OSHA and Masks

Surgical masks are not designed or certified to prevent the inhalation of small airborne contaminants.


What OSHA says about Surgical Masks

What OSHA says about Surgical Masks

While the article’s subject is on both Respiratory and Surgical masks rarely are Respiratory Masks worn by the general public. The attention here is to page 2 of the link above, the Surgical Masks, which are those most worn by the general public.

It states:

“Surgical masks are used as a physical barrier to protect the user from hazards, such as splashes of large droplets of blood or body fluids.”

Further, and note the following sentence, “large particles of body fluids,” this is not the micron-sized particles of a virus:

“Surgical masks also protect other people against infection from the person wearing the surgical mask. Such masks trap large particles of body fluids that may contain bacteria or viruses expelled by the wearer.”

The following is the use of Surgical Masks:

“Surgical masks are used for several different purposes, including the following:
• Placed on sick people to limit the spread of infectious respiratory secretions to others.
• Worn by healthcare providers to prevent accidental contamination of patients’ wounds by the organisms normally present in mucus and saliva.
• Worn by workers to protect themselves from splashes or sprays of blood or bodily fluids; they may also keep contaminated fingers/ hands away from the mouth and nose.”

And note the most relevant portion of the article and Surgical Masks with respect to the prevention of small airborne contaminants not visible to the naked eye:

“Surgical masks are not designed or certified to prevent the inhalation of small airborne contaminants. These particles are not visible to the naked eye but may still be capable of causing infection.”

Not only that, but the only masks that can prevent infection from an “aerosol-borne” virus is one that is tightly sealed around the mouth and nose:

“Surgical masks are not designed to seal tightly against the user’s face. During inhalation, much of the potentially contaminated air can pass through gaps between the face and the surgical mask and not be pulled through the filter material of the mask.”

And most importantly, unless the masks have been tested, approved and cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is why on most boxes of masks the general public is buying states they are not COVID-19 compliant:

“Their ability to filter small particles varies significantly based upon the type of material used to make the surgical mask, so they cannot be relied upon to protect workers against airborne infectious agents. Only surgical masks that are cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be legally marketed in the United States have been tested for their ability to resist blood and body fluids.”

For most of those you see walking around in public with a mask on?

It’s no different than if they were walking around without one.

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