Increasing the Coverage, Mask or Gaiter

There has been a vast amount of conflicting information available in recent months on the effectiveness of face coverings, leading many people to believe that gaiters provide little to no protection, relative to masks.

Recently research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) simulated the spread of the aerosol from a cough. While a N95 respirator blocked 99% of the test aerosol, a double layer gaiter blocked 60% which is equivalent to a medical surgical mask (59%) and better than a cloth face mask (51%). In contrast, a face shield blocked just 2% of the cough aerosol.

A similar test by the University of Georgia into protection against respiratory droplets found that single layer gaiters provided an average 77% reduction compared to wearing no face covering at all. Two layer masks provided an average 81% reduction and multiple layer gaiters provided an average 96% reduction.

The research suggests that the key factors that are important in selecting a protective face covering are:

  • the type of material used, such as cotton and cotton blends
  • the quality of the material such as tightly woven fabrics with high thread counts and,
  • the number of layers

Whether it’s in the form of a gaiter or a mask appears to be less relevant. This is reflected on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which includes gaiters on its ‘Guide to Masks’ website, however it still does not recommend face shields as an alternative to masks.

This could be good news in effort to encourage everyone to wear face coverings, as it increases the options available.

So if you are considering using a gaiter, it is important to look for a high quality cotton blend that is either long enough to be folded up to create two layers or is constructed with multiple layers.

Further information on the findings of the studies can be found online at:


It feels like John Quinn has been involved in safety forever. He started as a union safety representative, then a firefighter, an occupational health nurse, and for the last 18 years an HS&E advisor for a range of industries including Nuclear, Aerospace, Construction, Social Services, Marine Transport, Smelting and Demolition. John is the co-creator of