CEN published a new Technical Specification on community face coverings

The Covid-19 pandemic made the need for shared rules on community face coverings particularly urgent. In response, CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, developed in record time an initial deliverable that could provide the necessary guidelines: CEN Workshop Agreement 17553:2020 ‘Community face coverings - Guide to minimum requirements, methods of testing and use’. Although a Workshop Agreement (also known as CWA) does not count as an official standard, as it involves no obligation at the national level, thanks to its simplified format it can be produced and disseminated very quickly, and therefore it can help fill urgent needs.

Based on this work, at the end of 2020, CEN/TC 248 ‘Textiles and Textile products’ started work on the transformation of the CWA into a more formal, higher consensus deliverable, a European Technical Specification (TS). This work was finally completed in 2022, with the publication, on 2 November, of CEN/TS 17553:2022 ‘Textiles and textile products - Community face coverings - Minimum requirements, methods of testing and use’.


The requirements (on design, performance, test methods, packaging, marking and information for use) described in CEN/TS 17553:2022 are applicable to community face coverings made of one or multiple fabric layers (woven, knitted, nonwoven, etc.), with or without film or paper filter in between and/or including a transparent window (known as inclusive CFCs).


Community face coverings are neither PPE nor medical devices, for which dedicated standards and regulations were already existing. Community face coverings are a third type of protective category preventing the ejection of droplets to nearby people. Community face coverings are intended for use by people in areas of known or suspected cluster transmission of respiratory infection. Typically, community face coverings are worn in indoor (for example, shops, shared workplaces, schools, transport, etc.) and outdoor settings where physical distancing can be impractical.


This new Technical Specification will help manufacturers and testing labs ensure reusable and single-use community face coverings are safe and fit for purpose. It can also be used by the Market Surveillance authorities in the Member State as a benchmark to assess the safety of this product. This type of product falls under the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) that ensures that products placed on the market are safe.


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