The Queensland safety regulator has issued an alert over substandard face masks, which were found to be worn at an underground coal site in the state.
Due to the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for P2 and N95 masks has increased significantly, meaning there are less high-quality masks available, and the market has seen an influx of sub-standard masks. The masks play a vital role in protecting workers from dust-related diseases.
CFMEU spokesman Steve Smyth explained that they “had masks coming in that weren’t rated and were actually ineffective and fake at our coal mines.”
“This is a huge concern because there are guys relying on these masks each and every day, thinking they’re effective.”
The Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy has conducted testing on two of the samples that were discovered, finding that two of the five samples provided returned a zero per cent pass rate for facial seals.
According to the department, the use of such masks in high-dust areas could expose workers to respirable dust at unsafe levels, and prolonged exposure could result in ongoing health conditions.
Mr Smyth said that workers had raised concerns over the quality of the equipment provided.
“It’s a failure of the system that these were allowed to get in, but again, it’s people taking the opportunity off the back of a pandemic,” he said.
“They were selling them knowing these masks were ineffective and not should be used in coal mines in Queensland.”
The safety regulator, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has explained that identifying substandard, fake or unaccredited masks can be difficult. WorkSafe NSW has identified some products with documentation from unaccredited testing facilities or without licence numbers.
Under Australian legislation, providing false or misleading representations about goods can mean fines of up to $10 million and individuals can face fines of up to $500,000.