Best Masks For COVID Protection & Other Viruses

by Team Tradify, January 20, 2023

Just because your face is covered doesn’t mean you’re protected

Wearing a face mask while working isn’t a foreign concept for most tradespeople, but pre-COVID they certainly weren’t an everyday part of the uniform. Now face masks hang off tool belts around the world. Wearing one could save your life — or someone else’s.

Face masks are a simple way to help decrease the transmission of viruses, especially for those who are non-symptomatic. At the start of the 2020 outbreak, proper ventilator masks were in short supply and the advice was that something was better than nothing. However, some basic masks are more effective than others at protecting you and your crew while on the tools.

Here we look at a few options you may already own and assess whether how well each mask may protect you from COVID and other viruses.

1. Bandanas, scarves, or buffsbandana mask

Let’s start at the bottom. While a bandana, scarf, or buff (sometimes known as a neck fleece) does a good job at covering your face, it’ll do next to nothing to contain the spread of any virus. A recent study has found these types of face coverings are barely more effective than no covering at all. They’re also a safety hazard – a scarf plus power tools equals an accident waiting to happen. 

2. Face shields, e.g. welder’s mask or arborist’s hat

welders mask

A helmet, earmuffs, and face shield all in one – that’s got to be a winner, right? Wrong! While your entire face and head might be covered, you’re not protected. Because the virus is airborne, unless you’re wearing a surgical mask underneath, you’re still at risk of contracting and/or spreading a virus.

3. Dust masks

dust mask

These masks get a big tick for being one of the most comfortable, but that’s about it. The one-way valve will make it easier for you to breathe but does nothing to protect the people around you. There’s not much difference between this mask and blowing air directly into another person’s face.

4. Reusable face masks

cloth reusable mask

During lockdowns, it seems people either baked banana bread or learned to sew face masks. If that wasn’t you, someone you know probably did. The good news is, these masks rank relatively well. They can reduce the spread of the virus, are easy to purchase or make and can be washed and worn again. If the mask fits snugly across your nose and mouth and has multiple layers of fabric, it’ll provide a decent amount of protection. Results may vary.

5. Surgical masks

surgical mask

Most often worn by healthcare workers, these disposable masks provide a good barrier of protection between people. But because they tend to be loose-fitting between the mask and your face, they lose a few points on the effectiveness scale.

6. Respirators

respirator mask

The holy grail of face masks, respirators hit the nail on the head. Specifically designed to reduce the risk of inhaling or exhaling hazardous airborne particles, they provide a high level of protection by filtering out large and small particles. Depending on your line of work, you may already have one as part of your toolkit. Make sure it moulds tightly to your face – and away you go. 

Battle of the face masks

Every face mask is different. While some do a better job than others, there are a fair few you’re best to avoid. Some masks, like respirators and surgical masks, may be in short supply with healthcare workers taking top priority. If this is the case, chuck a few of those reusable masks in the glove compartment and keep yourself and your mates safe.