Scientists and healthcare professionals around the world have underlined the importance of face coverings to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. While necessary for public safety, facemasks present huge challenges for the hard of hearing. Face masks with clear windows allow better visibility of facial expressions and lip movements, but at the start of the pandemic there were few manufacturers or suppliers.

Edinburgh social enterprise Breathe Easy had products that could protect users within a social environment but were not certified for medical use. At a time when only a handful of labs in Europe were able to certify the product, there was a long queue for an appointment and applicants needed to present a comprehensive portfolio to secure product approval. The NMIS-AFRC applied their expertise to help the company build a portfolio, documenting the design process and outlining the specifications of the product.

Demand has been incredible, with the NMIS-AFRC supporting Breathe Easy with growing its staff and increasing its production facility by 400%. With the expertise of NMIS-AFRC engineers, the social enterprise has now concluded all certification testing and self-certification against the relevant standard is now being sought for the BE CLEAR transparent face mask. Breathe Easy has received an initial order for 10,000 masks from NHS Scotland to be used in further live trials and discussions around an additional 500,000 are ongoing along with conversations with other NHS trusts across the UK and Ireland.

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