Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

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60% of businesses struggle to obtain face masks

26 June 2020

Over six in ten (63%) of construction businesses are having “sustained difficulty” obtaining FFP3 face masks for use on site, according to a survey by industry bodies.

Some 15% of businesses said their situation was “impossible” and another 36% described it as “highly challenging”, in the survey of members of the Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum, Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), SELECT, Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF), and Life and Escalator Industry Association (LEIA).

Over four in 10 respondents (44%) said they 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).

Some 37% said the current respiratory protective equipment (RPE) situation had caused them to ‘delay our activity’, with 3% saying it had ‘already caused us to lose work’. However, more than one in five businesses (21%) said that they were taking steps to adjust by ‘redesigning our work to avoid respiratory hazards’.

Over nine in 10 respondents said prices of FFP3 and FFP2 masks had increased, with nearly half of businesses reporting that face masks had at least doubled in price (49% for FFP3, 46% for FFP2).

ECA director of CSR Paul Reeve said: “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.