Engineering firms struggling to source suitable face masks

OVER six in 10 (63%) engineering firms are having ‘sustained difficulty’ in obtaining suitable face masks (FFP2) for use on site, according to a new survey from ECA, BESA, SELECT, SNIPEF, LEIA and the CICV Forum.

Of the businesses found to be struggling, 15% said that it was ‘impossible’ to source the equipment while 36% said that it was ‘highly challenging’.

Additionally, the findings showed that over four in 10 respondents (44%) were having ‘sustained difficulty’ in obtaining FFP2 masks for use on site, with 10% of businesses reporting they had encountered faulty or counterfeit respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

The lack of access to RPE caused 37% to delay their activities, with 3% saying it had caused them to lose work, and one in five firms saying that they were taking steps to adjust by redesigning their work to avoid respiratory hazards.

The study also found that the cost of both FFP3 and FFP2 face masks have risen ‘dramatically’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over nine in 10 respondents said prices had increased, with nearly half of firms reporting that face masks had at least doubled in price.

ECA director of CSR Paul Reeve commented, “The inflated cost of RPE is clearly a problem but it’s overshadowed by the difficulties being encountered across our sector, to businesses who want to provide protection, but also reassurance, to their employees regarding coronavirus, as well as the other more established respiratory hazards.”

BESA health and safety advisor Rebecca Crosland added, “RPE and PPE are vital for our sector to operate safely, not only to protect workers from COVID-19, but from regular hazards such as inhaling dusts, silica, and other poisonous chemicals.

“This survey demonstrates the scale of the supply problems our members are experiencing, and it is anticipated there will be an additional increase in demand as further businesses reopen. The supply of compliant RPE/PPE must be urgently addressed to maintain productivity and the health and safety of workers.”

The survey, which was completed by 230 engineering services businesses, was held during June 2020.