Community face coverings standard now available

11 January 2021 

New standard for manufacturers on minimum performance requirements and test methods for community face coverings open for comment

BSI, in its role as the UK’s National Standards Body, has published a new standard for community face coverings to help UK manufacturers, testing houses, retailers and consumers, to ensure single-use and re-usable face coverings are safe and fit for purpose.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are wearing face coverings to reduce the projection of exhaled air and the spread of infection. They are designed to offer a level of protection for those around the wearer, but they can also limit penetration by respiratory droplets from another person into the wearer’s nose and mouth. A face covering can also minimize the amount wearers touch their nose and mouth. 

The new standard, called Community Face Coverings – Specification, concerns safety and fitness for purpose, and aims to provide:

  • minimum performance requirements for manufacturers with regard to filtration and transmission and use of materials intrinsically safe for face coverings
  • general information on single and multi-use face coverings, plus cleaning requirements for multi-use coverings
  • a method of test for testing houses, and
  • reassurance for retailers and consumers.

The Community Face Coverings - Specification does not cover PPE or medical face coverings, nor does it address DIY coverings or transparent face coverings. 

Scott Steedman, Director-General Standards at BSI said: “In the fight against Covid, face coverings have become an everyday part of life to help reduce the spread of infection. With so many suppliers providing face coverings on the market it was vital that BSI as the National Standards Body should develop an agreed set of performance requirements to increase public confidence that those they use may be fit for purpose. While international standards work is continuing, BSI has brought together key stakeholders to agree the first UK consensus standard for Community Face Coverings, which we hope will be widely adopted.”

The standard has been developed by an Advisory Group1 made up of expert healthcare, consumer and retail representatives in the UK.

Version 1 of the standard is available now and is open for comment. Comments are invited until 1 February 2021 via the Standards Development Portal. A second Version of the Specification that will have benefitted from public comments and input from a Review Panel of related standards committee members and other stakeholders, is expected to be published in February.

The standard is available for free download: BSI Flex 5555 v1.0 Community face coverings — Specification

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Notes to the editor:

1Advisory Group

Bolton Consultancy Ltd; National Childrenswear Association; Shirley Technologies Ltd; Intertek; Cabinet Office; CPIN; University of Leeds, UK; University of Huddersfield; UK Hospitality; University College London; Nestle UK; SMTL; Rocialle Healthcare Limited; Which?; and Pennine Healthcare.

Standard development

For speed, the Advisory Group has built on an existing document, the CEN WORKSHOP AGREEMENT CWA 17553 (2020) Community face coverings - Guide to minimum requirements, methods of testing and use, and refocussed the document for the UK market.

The standard is a fast-tracked agreement, developed through a consensus-building process, facilitated by BSI. The standard is a BSI Flex document, a new type of standard that is best suited to areas where there is a need to rapidly iterate and update content as best practice emerges. BSI Flex Standards are developed using repeated cycles of iteration and new versions. Find out more about Flex Standards here: https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/our-services/standards-services/flex/