Following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, preparations are being made to cope better with the next COVID period. Lessons learned are drawn up so that actions can be taken to solve the identified bottlenecks in the best possible way.
During the past COVID period, (textile) companies have turned their production around to help mitigate the shortage of masks for health workers and citizens. On the one hand, it became clear that the necessary machinery (for the production of nonwovens and the assembly of face masks) is not available in Flanders and that there is insufficient product knowledge.
Companies have used their production apparatus and available materials in order to provide protective equipment. However, not all products met the safety and comfort requirements.
Moreover, a large number of companies had to drastically reduce or even stop their activities, partly because of sick employees, partly because they could not work safely. Even if social-distancing precautions could be taken, employees were concerned about being infected by colleagues, customers, professional relations. The lack of protective equipment added to this. With a view to the exit after the first wave, massive efforts were made by (textile) companies and private individuals to produce community masks, with an obvious priority to safety.
However, for the people in the field, it turned out that wearing a face mask was not always comfortable due to insufficient breathability, insufficient heat and moisture dispersion (fumigated glasses), a poor fit, because the mask is either too big or too small (adult vs. child as well as anthropometric differences of the face). Poor fit compromises safety because the wearer tends to frequently touch the mask and face, creating a significant risk of contamination.
In this project, the 3 partners - Centexbel-VKC, HoGent and VITO - each contribute their expertise in the field of materials and processes, comfort & fit, maintenance/decontamination, legislation, test protocols and standards.
The aim of this project is to disseminate information about which materials and processes can be used to make safe, comfortable and well-fitting face masks. This will result in better fitting and safe protective masks. In combination with a pleasant wearing comfort, employees will be able to work while wearing face masks throughout their shift and citizens will be able to enter busy environments with peace of mind.
The applicable legislation and the required quality and guidelines for maintenance will be clearly displayed.
This project will ensure that Flanders can provide its own protective equipment (respiratory, medical, community and artisanal masks) so that citizens and workers can move around safely and comfortably in society and at work.
This will have an economic impact on the various target groups: textile and clothing companies, employees and staff in shops and catering establishments.
Collective Research & Development and Collective Knowledge Transfer (COOCK), financed byVlaio
1 October 2020 – 30 September 2021