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There has been a surge in demand for P2 respirators for use against airborne pollutants during the recent extensive bushfires and more immediately against the transmission of CoV-SARS-2. This has resulted in an increase of non-compliant respirators entering the supply chain, which has been highlighted by several bodies including SafeWork NSW and WorkSafe New Zealand.

Identifying non-compliant products presents challenges for businesses purchasing respirators for their workers, as the processes and checkpoints that provide compliance can be complex.

This guide was developed to assist those who purchase disposable P2 respirators in Australia and New Zealand for use in the workplace. Specifically, this document deals with disposable P2 respirators, commonly termed, “Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFP)” or “P2 face masks”.

Information on respirators that relate to international standards such as N95, FFP2 and KN95 are included in this document because the standards that relate to those products have been considered to be generally equivalent in times of short supply. Those products are also now more commonly found in the Australian and New Zealand marketplace.

In Australia and New Zealand, the preference is always to purchase respirators that meet the Australian and New Zealand Standard (e.g. AS/NZS1716:2012). Caution is needed when procuring respirators claiming compliance with other international standards and the purchaser should have a good understanding of the limitations involved when doing so. At the time of publication, it should be noted that the use of KN95 respirators is not recommended for use in Australian or New Zealand work environments. Preference should be given to P2 or other international equivalently designed and manufactured products, such as N95 or FFP2 respirators. Further information is provided on this topic in this guide.

This guide is based on commonly engaged practice under national and international advice. It attempts to aggregate that information to provide a simple method to what can otherwise be a very complex process of pre- purchase evaluation. This guide will be useful for those who purchase and/or use P2, or equivalent, respirators by outlining simple steps to help verify if the product complies with an appropriate standard.

Information on how to make choices on which respirator is suitable for specific purposes is not discussed in this guide (which is covered in AS/NZS1715:2009 – Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment), nor is information surrounding the additional provisions needed for using respirators in health care settings. This guide does not address the complete process of respirator certification or the necessary procedures for importers and distributors.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) provides the lowest level of protection in the hierarchy of control and Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation makes it mandatory to work through higher-order controls before using PPE such as respirators. During times of short supply of P2 respirators, users are advised to use the precautionary principle and utilise a higher level of protection than would otherwise be selected.