Over six in 10 engineering services businesses (63 per cent) are having “sustained difficulty” in obtaining suitable face masks (FFP3) for use on site, according to the results of a new survey from ECA, BESA, SELECT, SNIPEF, LEIA and the CICV Forum.
Of these businesses struggling to obtain FFP3 masks, 15 per cent said their situation was “impossible’” and 36 per cent said it was “highly challenging”.
Additionally, over four in 10 respondents (44 per cent) said they were having “sustained difficulty” in obtaining FFP2 masks for use on site, with 10 per cent of businesses reporting they had encountered faulty or counterfeit respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
Thirty-seven per cent said the current RPE situation had caused them to delay activity, with three per cent saying it had already caused them to lose work. However, more than one in five businesses (21 per cent) said that they were taking steps to adjust by redesigning their work to avoid respiratory hazards.
The cost of both FFP3 and FFP2 face masks has also risen dramatically during the crisis. Over nine in 10 respondents said prices had increased, with nearly half of businesses reporting that face masks had at least doubled in price (49 per cent for FFP3, 46 per cent for FFP2).
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.”
Overall, four in 10 businesses (41 per cent) said current access to face fit testing was a “practical concern”, though a similar number (also 41 per cent) indicated it was not an issue.
The survey, which was completed by 230 engineering services businesses, was held during June 2020.