Mask Fit Matters!

While the CDC is relaxing face mask guidelines for people vaccinated against COVID-19, they still have an important role in the COVID-19 pandemic and have shown their effectiveness against other infectious diseases, like the flu. Therefore, many people will continue to use them as part of everyday life for the foreseeable future.

However, even the best mask must fit well to effectively prevent airborne particles from spreading via people’s noses and mouths. One of the most common issues is the potential for gaps between the mask and the wearer’s face.

Did you know that fogging glasses are more than an inconvenience for mask wearers?

It’s actually a quick gauge for how well the mask fits. If your glasses are fogging, that means moisture (and possibly infectious disease particles) are leaking around the mask’s edges.

Whether or not you are wearing glasses, contacts, or no eyewear at all, when a mask doesn’t fit properly, it pushes air upward, onto the eyes, potentially causing the tear film — the liquid layer that coats the eyes’ surface — to evaporate more quickly. This may lead to Mask-Associated Dry Eye (MADE) leaving the eyes to feel sore, gritty, dry, and irritated.

Read on for some tips to ensure the best — and safest — fit, which will help you make the most of your mask.

Choose a mask with a thick double-wire nose bridge.
A nose bridge, the metal strip in a mask to mold to the wearer’s nose, provides a tighter seal to prevent leakage and thus, foggy glasses. The nose bridge should be molded across the bridge of the nose and to the center of the cheekbones.

Make sure you’re wearing your mask correctly.

Ear loops can not only be functional, a high quality ear loop can make a big difference when you have a mask on for extended periods of time. Make sure you look for a mask with a comfortable ear loop that fits well, without losing stretch.
If ear loops are too loose, they can be easily fixed by:
A simple twist or two of the ear loops before putting the mask on
The “knot and tuck” method: Wear a mask fitter or brace.
Mask fitters and braces are devices that can be used over a mask to help reduce air leakage. For the firmest fit, we recommend adding one of the following devices:

Consider adding a face shield.
Face shields can be worn with a mask and offer protection from the direct transfer of respiratory particles. We like the ZShield Ultra from ZVerse, which you can buy individually or in a bundle with the Aries face mask.

Should you double-mask?

There has been so much confusion over the best way to fit your mask. Most importantly, you should always start with a mask that offers high filtration. If your mask filters properly, you can address fit with any of the methods above and not have to compromise comfort and breathability.

Internal tests by Aries showed that by adding another mask on top of a good filter mask could actually compromise the fit of the high-filtration mask by straining nose wires and ear loops. In addition, the added fabric can significantly reduce breathability. So, before you throw on that extra mask, consider all the other fit techniques that can improve a high-performance mask.

Want to know more about masks that won’t fog your glasses? Contact us today.


Employers Guide for Masks, Vaccinations, and Returning to Work

Masks, Vaccinations and the Workplace
On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that wearing a mask in most indoor settings was no longer necessary for individuals who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
OSHA has promised to issue guidance soon, so it is possible that some rules may continue to change.

What indoor settings does the CDC still recommend masks?
Vaccinated and unvaccinated employees should comply with any state and local rules that may be stricter. Businesses can make their own stricter rules and require employees and customers to comply with wearing masks while inside. Additionally, people are still required to wear masks on public transportation, in correctional or detention facilities, or in homeless shelters. In addition, different rules apply to health care employers as well as those visiting healthcare sites.

Can an employer ask for proof of vaccination?
Yes. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance last December saying that it was legal for employers to:

    1. (1) require employees to be vaccinated (with limited exceptions) and
    1. (2) ask employees whether they have been vaccinated, or even to ask for proof of vaccination.

Proof of vaccination could be a receipt from a doctor’s office or pharmacy, a note from a health care provider or health department, or a vaccination card.

Are there exemptions to employers requiring vaccinations?
Yes. If an employee has a disability that precludes vaccination (for example, the employee is immunocompromised) or if vaccination would violate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, the employer will have to at least try to make reasonable accommodations.
Reasonable accommodations could include letting the unvaccinated employee work from home or requiring the unvaccinated employee to continue to wear a mask, social distance, and take all the other old COVID precautions in the workplace.

What if someone already had COVID-19? Do they still need to be vaccinated?
Yes. According to the CDC “you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible—although rare—that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again.”

What about an employee believes they will contract the virus from the vaccination or that it will alter their DNA or that implant a microchip in their body?
These types of belief’s are not based on a disability, religious belief, so it is not legally protected. Employers can accommodate employees with “non-protected” objections to vaccination, but they are not required to do so.

Unvaccinated people may now be more easily identified if they are required to wear a mask. This may cause friction in work and public spaces and discrimination on both sides. What precautions should companies take for those who cannot get vaccinated because of religious or health reasons and for those that refuse to get vaccinated?
Employers should issue a clear communication to all employees to avoid any confrontations based on whether masks are being worn. This is especially important for supervisors and management. Confrontations and making workers feel uncomfortable can result in disciplinary action. If the employer is following applicable laws and guidance, and the unvaccinated employees are following the rules (wearing masks, social distancing, etc.), unvaccinated employees should be left in peace. In addition, if an employee with health concerns asks to be moved away from a co-worker who has not been vaccinated, the employer should try to accommodate.

What about employees who are still fearful and want to keep working from home?
This is between the employer and the employee, as well as the requirements of their specific job. If your employee wants to continue wear masks even though they do not need them, allow this.

Want to learn more about a face mask designed to be worn for an 40-hour work week? Contact us today


How to Spot a Fake: Face Masks

Early in the pandemic, the U.S. faced a mask shortage. Whether it was N95s for medical use, or protective masks for personal use. Cloth masks popped up everywhere, but as we found out, they weren’t as effective at preventing the spread of Covid-19 as masks with high filtration materials. Why? The majority of the materials for N95 masks, as well as the masks themselves, are manufactured internationally, and materials and masks in the U.S. remain in short supply to this day. So, it didn’t come as a surprise when news of counterfeit masks began making headlines in the summer of 2020.

Counterfeit masks are available in excess for many reasons, including the unprecedented demand and lack of supply. Just how excessive is their availability? As of February 2021, Homeland Security Investigations estimated that 10 million counterfeit masks and other medical supplies had been seized by law enforcement. And that’s just what has been identified!

There are several ways to spot fake masks. Early in 2021, the ASTM standards came out with a way to measure the effectiveness of non-medical masks through the ASTM F3502 standard. Much like choosing your suntan lotion by SPF, this guideline seeks to let users understand exactly what they are getting with filtration and breathability for the mask they purchase.

As we will continue wearing face masks throughout vaccine rollouts and beyond, it’s important to be able to identify a face mask that is verified to keep you, and those around you, safe.

Here’s how:
Identifying counterfeit non-medical masks
If you are purchasing a mask for work or school, it is important that it not only protects others, but that it is comfortable to wear throughout the day. Cloth masks may be breathable and comfortable, but they have been shown to filter less than 40% of particulates in the air. And the medical masks available for non-medical use are highly protective but may not be comfortable to wear throughout the day.

A mask that is compliant with the ASTM F3502 standard is going to be both high in filtration and breathable to wear throughout the day. To identify whether a mask is ASTM F3503 compliant, Look for the following:

  • Test results from an independent, accredited laboratory (for example from Intertek or Nelson Labs)
  • The mask itself is labeled. At a minimum, the label must include:
    • the manufacturer’s name, identification, designation, or logo
    • the barrier face covering model or style and
    • the statement “Meets ASTM F3502.”
  • Additionally, the following warning must be printed on the smallest saleable unit/package and must be viewable in its entirety:
    • NOTE: ASTM does not “certify”, so if you come across one of the many sites that claims ASTM Certification, you know for sure you are not buying an ASTM compliant mask.

Without the above requirements, you are not buying a mask for general use that meets the standards for BOTH Filtration and Breathability.

In addition, the market has been flooded with counterfeits for medical masks-both N95 respirators and KN95 non-medical masks. Here are some tips to identify these masks.

Identifying counterfeit N95s
<Image from the CDC>

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NIOSH-approved face masks (defined as “respirators”) that meet N95 classification standards have a variety of markings to indicate authenticity. The absence of those markings is one clue as to whether a mask is counterfeit or the real thing. Counterfeit masks often have:

  • No markings at all on the face mask
  • No approval (TC) number on filtering facepiece respirator
  • No NIOSH markings
  • NIOSH spelled incorrectly
  • Presence of decorative fabric or add-ons (e.g., sequins)
  • Claims for approved use by children
  • Filtering facepiece respirator that has ear loops instead of headbands

Educate Yourself on Additional Mask Standards
The majority of us do not need to wear N95 masks under normal circumstances, not only because of scarcity but also because of the impact that high filtration has on breathability (check out our blog on filtration and breathability for more information). There are a wide variety of face mask options that are safe.

ASTM International, an global standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards, recently published F3502, a barrier face covering standard for general-use masks. This marks the first voluntary standard directed at face coverings and is intended to apply to the general public and workers. To determine if a mask meets these standards, the mask must undergo testing by independent third-party companies, which means you can be confident that the mask will keep the wearer and those around them safe. Products that meet the standard are labeled as “MEETS ASTM F3502.”

Research marketing claims that boast of certification.
For instance, it’s not possible to be “ASTM-certified.” Manufacturers can only claim to meet the ASTM standard through third-party testing, which is when they can label the mask as “MEETS ASTM F3502.”

Look for Face Masks Made in the U.S.
The majority of counterfeit masks that we see in the United States come from other countries. Additionally, face masks made and manufactured in the U.S. can ease the supply chain bottlenecks that personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers are facing internationally, ensuring a consistent supply of materials. Plus, buying a U.S.-made mask supports local jobs!

Want to learn about a novel face mask that meets ASTM F3502 and is made in the U.S.? Contact us today.


Infographic: 10 Tips for Choosing the Best Mask

You want your employees to be safe AND comfortable as you get back to work. Ensuring your employees have high-quality, effective masks that are also comfortable to wear is paramount to your overall employee well-being. Here are 10 things to consider when purchasing masks for your workforce. Click on the graphic below to see the infographic.


Face Mask Filtration and Breathability: Yes, You Can Have Both

As vaccines are administered and restrictions are easing, more businesses are re-opening, and companies are bringing their employees back into the office. This raises concerns about employee safety and well-being given that COVID transmission is still possible.

While it still remains unclear if employers will be responsible for providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks (aka barrier face covering), for their employees, many are choosing to do so in the interest of preventing infection. With the shortage of medical masks, many people have turned to non-medical masks, such as cloth masks, as alternatives. It can be challenging to know which masks are effective while being comfortable enough to wear for an entire work day.


Keeping Your Employees Safe AND Comfortable: 10 Tips to Consider When Purchasing Face Masks

With the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies have become essential for more than just health care workers but also for the health of the general public and our national economy. Key considerations to getting businesses back open are following local and federal PPE mandates as well keeping employees and those around them safe. Masks in the workplace are recommended by OSHA, and many businesses are opting to provide face masks for employees.