As COVID-19 shows no sign of slowing, local governments continue to establish new mandatory protocols, and the use of masks is becoming commonplace in many workplaces around the world. In a recent Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, 86% of employers stated that they either currently require or were planning to require face masks in their workplaces.
It has been a challenging time for many employers and the guidance on health and safety concerning COVID-19, particularly regarding the use of face masks, has been contradictory at best. After initially dismissing the use of face masks to limit the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now encouraging their use in both public spaces and workplaces. In fact, the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now strongly recommend the use of masks in specific industries such as the laundry business and childcare industry.
Several cities and regions have implemented laws that require the use of masks in indoor areas, and since the situation continues to be fluid, these laws are constantly evolving. As such, it is critical to stay on top of federal, provincial, and municipal laws regarding the use of masks and the implications for your company with respect to liability and compliance.
Here is what you need to know about the use of masks in your workplace.
WHICH MASK IS RIGHT FOR YOUR WORKERS?
There are essentially three types of masks recommended for use against COVID-19: cloth face coverings, surgical masks, and respirators. OSHA recommends the use of N-95 respirators in both health care and many construction operations. However, for most businesses, cloth face coverings or surgical masks are considered sufficient.
- Cloth Face Coverings: These include both disposable options and commercially produced or homemade scarves, bandanas, and masks. The latter can be made with pockets for filters and customized with company logos or other decorations. None of these options is considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and they are not regulated. Due to their loose fit, they do not offer full protection for the wearer and are designed more to protect those the wearer comes into contact with. The non-disposable options must be washed after each use
- Surgical Masks: Surgical masks are the types of disposable, commercially-made masks used by doctors and other staff in surgeries. Many employers are now providing them for use in other workplaces. They are considered PPE and are regulated. However, if not fitted correctly, these offer the same limitations as cloth face coverings. They must also be disposed of after each use.
- Respirators: The most commonly recognizable respirator is the N-95 used in health care settings, which received a lot of media attention when there were shortages early in the pandemic. Respirators fit tightly to the wearer, and their effectiveness is dependent on individual mask fit testing that measures the fit and ensures no respirable particles can enter or escape. Respirators protect the wearer as well as those they come into contact with. Usually, these are disposed of after a single-use. However, after shortages early in the pandemic, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) released guidelines regarding the proper cleaning and reuse of respirators, including the N-95.
HOW TO WEAR A FACE MASK
Workers should wash their hands thoroughly before donning a mask and refrain from touching their face or mask once it is in place. For maximum effectiveness, the face mask must cover both the nose and the mouth and be pulled in with elastics or ties to fit as close as possible to the sides of the face. There should be no gaps on the sides of the mask. The employee should also be able to breathe easily while the mask is on.
Any masks that become damp should be immediately discarded and replaced. If you are planning to provide N-95s to your staff, ensure you provide mask fit testing for all employees to guarantee their effectiveness.
Surgical and N-95 masks should be disposed of after use. Cloth masks should be washed after each use in hot, soapy water and then dried in high heat. To limit contamination, remove masks from behind the head or ears and then hold them away from the body or any other surfaces. Supply enclosed receptacles for the collection of masks for either disposal or washing. Employees should always wash their hands again after removing masks.
SUREHIRE'S MASK USE POLICY
- Policy: All participants undergoing onsite and SureHire facility testing (Canada-wide) are required to use a mask or face covering.
Per the exception list, SureHire's Power Centre locations fall under the category of people engaging in an athletic or fitness activity (Calgary) or people exercising indoors or in a pool (Edmonton). Based on this, masks will be required unless performing the critical strength and mobility portion of Fitness-to-Work testing, or other testing that requires the participant to have access to their mouth (eg. breath alcohol or oral drug testing).
In addition, to ensure the safety of all SureHire staff as well as testing participants, all onsite testing will require participants to use a mask or face covering unless testing requires access to the participant’s mouth (eg. breath alcohol or oral drug testing).
If you have any questions regarding SureHire's Mask Use policy, please contact us.