Knowledge Base

What are alternatives when N95 respirator masks are not available?

Where N95s are currently used and no new supply can be located, alternatives
may be sourced. When sourcing possible alternatives, look for labels that say:

  • N99/N100;
  • R95/R99/R100; or
  • P95/P99/P100.

The numbers (95/99/100) indicate how efficient the mask is at filtering (a mask labeled
95 is 95-per cent efficient at filtering). The letters denote the following:

  • N = Not resistant to oil particulates
  • R = resistant to oil particulates
  • P = oil-proof

Manufacturers should review their risk assessments to determine if N, R, or P is appropriate. Any mask rated 95 or above is sufficient.

Some workers are opting to wear Cloth and Surgical masks. It is important to make aware that these types of masks may not protect you from the virus. These do not form a tight seal with the face and are not considered as an equivalent to the N95s. Cloth and surgical masks have their limitations, and these should be communicated to your workers.  See this document from WorkSafeBC, on the differences between Cloth, Surgical, and Disposable N95 respirators.