Is it Healthy to Wear Face Masks/Coverings at Work?

As the number of COVID19 cases is on the rise, there is a growing debate on whether or not wearing face masks be made mandatory for the employees at the workplace. People are concerned about what are the health and safety compulsions that employers have towards their staff and can employers make face masks compulsory for all employees?

What is the Legal Requirement?

There is no legal requirement for face masks. But there are some exceptions when it comes to face masks, which does not extend to employees. It is because of the current legal obligation of making the working environment safe for staff, and to conform to that obligation in England, you must follow the COVID19 secure guidelines set by the UK government. However, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have different guidelines. Based on a range of different types of workplaces, the UK government has introduced 14 different guidelines for employers. Some of the guides suggest that employers should provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their staff when their staff are engaged in particular types of clinical settings or at places where it is hard to maintain social distancing, especially where employees are required to work in very close proximity to their clients. Else, at places, where social distancing guidelines (two metres, or one metre with risk mitigation, where 2 metres is not possible) are managed well, extra PPE kits other than what is usually worn is not useful, and the guideline is simple and straight that extra use of PPE for the precautionary purpose to fight against COVID19 should not be encouraged.

Therefore, except that you are in a state where the risk of COVID19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should be able to make it clear that the role of PPE is limited when it comes to providing additional protection. That means, if an employee chooses to wear a non-PPE face mask at their workplace, employers must support them and encourage them to do so.

Risk Assessment at the Workplace

However, if employer’s risk assessment can convince that face masks and/or other types of PPE accessories are necessary, following the health and safety concerns of the employees, or they are compulsory in a certain type of workplace, they must be prepared to provide free of cost kit to their staff (according to the requirement) and also train them in how to use them and simultaneously also monitor them to avoid COVID19 transmission.

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