We've opened Australia’s first accredited single-use surgical face mask testing facility. The facility enables manufacturers to test their products to Australian and international standards in Australia and supply healthcare workers with this vital piece of protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.
Manufacturers can’t test masks in Australia
Single-use surgical masks used in Australia's hospitals and other health care settings need to meet Australian standards for a 'medical device' to be added to the Australian Register for Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
Prior to CSIRO gaining accreditation, the very specific tests required to meet Australian standards could only be performed overseas, which was a long and expensive process for manufacturers.
We pivoted quickly
COVID-19 reached Australia and the demand for masks surged. The local gap in testing became apparent and we moved quickly to assemble an expert team and develop the three tests required for manufacturers to meet Australian standards.
But someone had to check we were doing the test correctly. Enter the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), Australia's laboratory testing authority. NATA conducted a rigorous on-site review of our testing methodology and officially accredited our facility on 3 August 2020.
- Synthetic Blood Penetration (ISO 22609:2014) The Synthetic Blood Penetration Test determines how well a mask can act as a barrier against blood-borne pathogens. We spray a volume of synthetic blood at the centre of the mask at high velocity. This measures the mask's ability to stop blood penetrating through the mask.
- Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) (EN 14683:2014 Annex B) We conduct BFE testing on face masks made to provide protection against biological aerosols. This test determines whether biological organisms can penetrate the filtration fabric used in a mask.
- Pressure Differential (EN14683:2014 Annex C) The Differential Pressure test measures the differential pressure of air on either side of the test material. This test determines the breathability of a mask (whether the wearer will be able to breathe comfortably while wearing it).
Keeping our frontline healthcare workers safe
The facility boosts Australia's sovereign capability to produce essential medical supplies more efficiently and at a lower cost. Manufacturers no longer need to go overseas for accredited testing, saving them time and money.
The development supports local manufacturers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, we also tested and scaled up potential vaccines, used data to model and predict virus spread, and tested wastewater for traces of the virus.