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Letters Mask related acne

Mask related acne: using barrier tape with respirators may contravene safety standards

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 04 August 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1938
  1. Martin McMahon, HM inspector of health and safety
  1. Health and Safety Executive, HSE Glasgow Office, Glasgow, UK
  1. martin.mcmahon{at}

Rudd and Walsh discuss facial skin irritation attributed to the wearing of “facial personal protective equipment (PPE).”1 They use this term to include visors, face shields, safety spectacles, surgical masks, and respirator masks.

One of the techniques the authors suggest to help alleviate the condition is to apply a silicon based barrier tape to the nasal bridge and cheeks—presumably between the face and the PPE.

In respect of respirator masks, such as FFP3, the Health and Safety Executive does not support this technique for the following reasons:

  • • Tight fitting respirators such as FFP3 masks require an effective seal between the mask and the wearer’s face. The application of tape in this way may affect the integrity of this seal and compromise the protection afforded by the respirator

  • • A wearer of a tight fitting respirator must pass a fit test for that respirator. The fit test should replicate normal wear. The application of tape, however, seems to contravene British Standard ISO 16975-3:2017 for the selection, use, and maintenance of respiratory protective devices. Part 3 on fit testing procedures states: “A fit test shall not be conducted if there is any foreign material or substance between the sealing surface of the respiratory interface and the face or neck”

  • • The introduction of tape would most likely be considered a modification to the respirator and contrary to a manufacturer’s instructions, in particular any part of those instructions that indicate that nothing should be worn that would affect the integrity of the fit. This in turn may invalidate the Conformité Européene or UK Conformity Assessed mark for the respirator.


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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