18 May 2020

Updated 27 June 2020

These instructions explain how people working in waste management should protect themselves. The primary aim is to eliminate the risk and nuisance factors by using measures and organising the work. If this is not possible, employees need personal protective equipment that the employer must procure.

These instructions supplement the previous joint instructions related to the coronavirus epidemic (link) compiled by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM), the Finnish Ministry of Environment (YM), the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

The selection and use of protective equipment

The employer is responsible for the use and maintenance of the protective equipment in the workplace. When selecting the protective equipment, it is important to take into account the requirements of the work, work environment and employees. The body procuring the equipment must have sufficient knowledge of the protective equipment’s intended purpose of use.

  • make the protective equipment selection based on the risk assessment of the workplace
  • ensure that the protective equipment is of the correct protection level
  • select the personal protective equipment that is CE certified and type-approved
  • check that in the work situations the protective equipment is also usable and functional with other pieces of protective equipment
  • check that there is enough mobility, visibility and that verbal communication is possible
  • when selecting the protective equipment, take into account the employee’s state of health
  • when considering the selection and availability of the protective equipment, take into account personal characteristics and protective equipment models so that the protective equipment can reach the required protection level
  • respirators, surgical masks and other masks increase the heat load of the workers. Especially the heat must be taking into consideration when using and selecting the Personnel Protective Equipment during the hot summer days. The employees need to have breaks once an hour and they also need to drink water often. Working in heat (in Finnish) 
  • mark with safety signs the workspaces that require the use of protective equipment
  • provide instructions on how the protective equipment is meant to be used and maintained in the workplace and at workstations
  • choose a person to be responsible for the protective equipment in the workplace
  • monitor the use of the protective equipment
  • if necessary, organise a test to check that the equipment fits tightly – these tests can be requested from experts in personal protective equipment
  • arrange maintenance for the protective equipment, such as replaceable parts, cleaning and disinfection, and other possible maintenance or adjustment required by the manual

At the very least, an employee needs protective gloves, protective clothing and protective footwear

The everyday protective equipment for waste management includes protective gloves, clothes and footwear. The material for the protective gloves is selected on the basis of hazards identified in the risk assessment. Other protective equipment is used in the situations for which they are deemed necessary on the basis of the risk assessment. It is the employee’s duty to use the protective equipment issued by the employer. However, the employee is entitled to choose from among the sufficiently protective options presented by the employer the equipment that suits them best.

Selecting the respiratory protective equipment

Respiratory protective equipment is used in situations where waste and waste management processes release liquid aerosol, particles or gases into the air.

  • The most important thing in using respiratory protective equipment is that the equipment fits tightly to the face. When there is an estimation that the air contains large amounts of microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, the respiratory protective equipment must have a class P3 particle filter that filters biological factors.
  • When the work takes place outside or is brief and is not physically very taxing, FFP2/FFP3 respiratory protective equipment pursuant to the standard EN 149 is acceptable. When the filtering protective equipment does not have a blower, the person using it can do so for about two hours, after which it is recommended to rest for half an hour. Protective equipment that has a ventilator is usually more comfortable to use than equipment without one.
  • In such indoor activity where a large amount of liquid aerosol or particles originated from the waste is released into the air, the primary options for respiratory protective equipment is equipment that has a blower and the identification TM3P, TH3P and, in short-term work tasks, full face masks equipped with a class P3 particle filter. In such work tasks, it is also necessary to protect the eyes.
  • If there are gaseous substances present, a suitable combined filter (e.g. ABEK2P3R) that filters gases or even particles must be attached to the protective equipment .
  • Filtering respiratory protective equipment does not protect from lack of oxygen or, for example, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides or methane.

Particle filters can be non-reusable (NR) or reusable (R)

The filter in respiratory protective equipment, such as half and full face masks and blower-equipped protective equipment, can be replaced. Filters attached to reusable respiratory protective equipment are replaced as needed.

When the particle filter has the marking R (reusable), it can be used many times. The particle filter must be replaced at the latest when the breathing resistance is high or when the blower can no longer blow enough air through the filters. The blower devices have an alarm for low air flow and low battery. A particle filter marked with NR (non-reusable) is meant to be protective for only one work shift.

Gas filters have a limited service life

A gas filter or combined filter must be immediately replaced if the smell of gas comes through or if the service life indicator shows that, with regard to binding gas, the filter has reached its limit. The smell can also come through due to leaks in the facepiece caused by poor fitting to the face. Some gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, can dull the sense of smell. The fit of the protective equipment must immediately be corrected. If the sensation of the smell does not disappear quickly, you must leave the space and the filter must be replaced. All harmful gases do not have an odour even when the concentration is at a harmful level, only after the concentration is even higher. Whether there are such substances in the workplace must be examined for the risk assessment of the workplace. The longest possible service life of the filter, based on the conditions in the workplace, must be marked on the filters for these substances. It must not be exceeded.  The filter’s service life is affected by the temperature and humidity of the environment in which it is used, the concentration of the substances used in the air and thus how the filter becomes saturated with impurities. All filters also have their maximum storage period, which is marked on the filter.

When the protective blower equipment’s filter has the markingPSL, it protects from both liquid and solid aerosols.  PSL-marked protective blower equipment is selected for the task of washing waste bins and other work where there is liquid aerosol present. The filters of FFP2 and FFP3 protective equipment and class P3 half and full masks protect from liquid aerosol, too.

Touching the respiratory protective equipment while it is in use is prohibited

Respiratory protective equipment is always a part of the personal protective equipment. The protective equipment must be used the whole time you work in an unclean environment, even as you enter the space and until you leave the space. The respiratory protective equipment is put on with clean hands and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The equipment should not be touched during use. The respiratory protective equipment is taken off with clean hands, after which the hands are washed. After use, non-reusable respiratory protective equipment, such as FFP2/FFP3, is disposed into mixed waste.

The appropriate tightness of the fit must be checked when putting on the equipment

When putting on the protective equipment and before entering the unclean space, the appropriate tightness of how the equipment fits must be checked in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If the mask is not worn appropriately on the face, you must not enter the unclean space. If there are blower-equipped or other reusable half or full masks in use, they also are cleaned after use with either a water and soap wash or with disinfectant, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

User training on protective equipment

The employer is responsible for organising protective equipment training for employees. It is important to plan and give instructions on how the protective equipment is used in the workplace. Persons responsible for matters related to workplace protective equipment must have comprehensive knowledge concerning protective equipment. You can ask trained protective equipment experts for help in the selection of and user training in protective equipment. They can be found, for example, in the service of specialised protective equipment sellers.

Learn more

Using respiratory protective equipment 

Putting on a filtering half mask (FFP3)

Putting on a half mask

The protective equipment expert training of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s instructions have been compiled in collaboration with the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). We also follow the publications of the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The COVID-19 website of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

The coronavirus website of the World Health Organization (WHO)