Mine ventilation equipment and working-face consumables manufacturer Terramin has seen increased demand for its full-head precautionary respiratory protection solution named the Koplap as demand for face masks has increased on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, Terramin CEO Martin van Schoor tells Engineering News.
“Although more work needs to be done to ensure its suitability and effectiveness against Covid-19, the Koplap appears to be now receiving much interest as an alternative to mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says.
The Koplap, which is similar to a balaclava in appearance, was originally intended for use by underground drilling operators and for shotcrete applicators in the underground working space. The registered design includes the option to have a mesh fitment for eye protection from foreign bodies, as well as a non-return valve attached over the mouth area. This non-return valve attachment serves to reduce the moist breath from exhalation being forced up into the user’s eye zone. This prevents the fogging up of safety and prescription spectacles.
This precautionary respiratory device – which has been well evaluated and used for the filtration of air inhaled in dusty, particulate-infused underground working environments – has been presented as a product that can be applied in a manner that can afford a user three-layer protection in line with the proposed means and method stipulated in a government circular on three-layer cloth face masks.
The Koplap uses a bi-orientated knitted fabric, with the potential three-layer coverage when folded able to mitigate the projection of infected mucous droplets that are released into the user’s surroundings by coughing, sneezing or breathing. It was noted that during the evaluation as a precautionary inhalation filtration concept, the moisture from a user’s breath dampens the interstitial fabric fibres and assisted in the capture and retention of fine dust particles.
Van Schoor says one of the main advantages of the Koplap is durable – being easily washed with soap then rinsed and sanitised for reuse over a lengthy period.
“We have heard of some users in diamond mines who claim to have reused the product continually over many months. The Koplap can be washed by a user in the shower after a working shift and then hung up to dry for use during the next shift,” he says, adding that the item can also be sanitised through heat – such as by being ironed.
Further, he claims that many other companies have tried to copy the Koplap concept by offering “buff-type” items, however, Van Schoor is convinced that these are not of the same quality standard, and that buyers should be cautious.
“Disposable masks appear to be somewhat inefficient. They are possibly not properly fitted to the user, interfere with speech, audibility and are, in some cases, simply never worn,” he claims.
Moreover, the large-scale waste-handling problem of safely disposing of many possibly infected used masks presents a major problem, he adds.
In many jurisdictions, facial hair can prevent the effective use of disposable face masks. This is because of problems that arise from facial hair hindering the proper fitting and sealing against a user’s facial topography.
Van Schoor warns against haphazardly investing in the manufacture of cloth face masks without ensuring that they are manufactured in line with user-friendliness, affordability, as well as a Covid-19 government circular endorsing the three-layer concept.
Terramin is actively working with numerous mines to ensure that every user has a Koplap precautionary device that can mitigate the effects of particulate inhalation as well as mucous spread.