During the COVID-19 pandemic, some employers are currently open as essential businesses—for organisations that are not open, many plan to welcome back employees as soon as government guidelines allow it. Health experts suggest that face coverings should be worn in public, including places of employment.
There are many questions about the differences between masks and face coverings, and which is appropriate to wear. By familiarising yourself with best practices related to masks and face coverings in the workplace, employers can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Employers should know that masks and face coverings are different and should be used by different types of professions in the workplace.
According to health experts, a cloth face covering can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A face covering refers to a cloth covering of the face and is not a medical-grade mask. These can be purchased or even made at home. Face coverings will be an appropriate protection for employers to consider in many industries.
Masks refer to filtering respirators, such as a medical-grade or surgical mask. These are currently being utilised by vital professions, such as health care. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, masks are in short supply, and governments and health organisations across the globe are currently designating these as critical supplies.
Organisations should consider what types of services they provide and review government guidance. While masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, health organisations consider these as critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.
Unless providing critical services in one of these professions, most employers should consider using cloth face coverings rather than masks. Before making any determinations, employers need to review updated guidelines from the World Health Organisation and the UK government.
Further, keep in mind that HSE regulations require employers to provide any necessary personal protective equipment or clothing—such as face coverings or masks—to their employees free of charge.
Studies show that people with minimal or no symptoms can still have COVID-19. According to health experts, while wearing face coverings shouldn’t replace social distancing, cloth face coverings can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Health experts currently recommend wearing face coverings in public. Effective cloth face coverings should possess the following characteristics:
Effective practices can ensure that face coverings are being used effectively and that employers can plan for how to introduce face coverings in the workplace. Many health experts suggest that COVID-19 may even come back in additional waves, and employers may end up utilising COVID-19 related business practices into the near future. When implementing face coverings in the workplace, employers should review government guidelines, and consult a legal professional when making any policies or changes.
To ensure the best use of face coverings in the workplace, employers may want to consider a training programme for employees. Training dialogue may include the following best practices:
Along with face coverings, masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. For appropriate employers, such as organisations that employ health care workers and other medical first responders, medical-grade masks may be appropriate rather than face coverings. Though masks are not new to professions such as health care, employers should ensure that all employees are aware of any updates and current government guidelines.
When implementing masks in the workplace, employers should review government guidelines and consult a legal professional when making any policies or changes.
As employers plan for how to operate both during and post-coronavirus, creating preventive best practices can set up organisations for success. By being proactive and establishing appropriate measures and practices, employers can not only help prevent the spreading of diseases—but put employees at ease that necessary steps are being taken to ensure the health and safety of those who will be spending time in the workplace.
As guidelines related to COVID-19 change, employers should consult with a legal professional when updating or changing workplace policies. As you consider planning for your organisation in the wake of the pandemic, us today for additional COVID-19 related resources.