Highland Council Trading Standards advice on Face Coverings

Highland Council Trading Standards are highlighting the important difference between types of face masks during the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis.  These are:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical devices such as respirator or surgical masks which protect the wearer (and for medical devices, the patient) against the virus and must be made to a high specification.
  • Face coverings i.e. not anti-COVID PPE or medical devices, including scarves and homemade versions made from t-shirts, handkerchiefs etc; which do not protect the wearer but can to some extent reduce the amount of virus that an infected person emits, thus providing some protection to others in proximity.

David MacKenzie, Trading Standards Manager at The Highland Council, explains:

“All PPE that is intended to protect against COVID-19 coronavirus, including that sold to the public, must meet very high safety standards.  At the current time, it is recommended that proper face masks that provide such protection for the wearer should be reserved for NHS and care staff.  The recommendation from both the Scottish and UK Governments for the public to wear face coverings in some enclosed public places does NOT mean wearing proper anti-COVID PPE.  Instead it refers to any low specification face covering that can help reduce spread of the virus but does NOT protect the person wearing it.”

Businesses must not sell low-tech face coverings as PPE or make any claims that such items provide protection for the wearer against COVID-19.  According to Trading Standards, best practice at the present time is for businesses to explicitly state the limitations of such products when selling so that the buyer is in no doubt.

Trading Standards role on this topic is to enforce the laws in relation to consumer sales, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulating sales of items to be used in workplaces, including the NHS.  Detailed information about the production and sale of PPE to consumers can be found on the Trading Standards COVID-19 webpages at: www.highland.gov.uk/coronavirus/tradingstandards

David MacKenzie continued:

“Scottish Government advice about staying at home, social distancing and washing your hands, remain the same.  It is important to understand that basic face masks will not protect wearers from biological hazards like COVID-19.   If consumers really feel the need to buy proper PPE equipment to protect them from COVID, they should check carefully that it meets safety standards.  Basic face masks can continue to be useful in other situations such as protection against dust when doing some DIY work and can also be used as a face covering in enclosed public spaces.”

Consumers can get further advice or report any concerns through Trading Standards’ partner body Advice Direct Scotland (ADS) on 0808 164 6000 or www.consumeradvice.scot

Government advice on how to make a cloth face covering for your own use can be found at:



19 May 2020