Covid-19: Use of face masks for social and physical distancing in the workplace

This is a workplace Health & Safety issue.

Government guidance in this particular area has been limited and is subject to regular updates however it’s worth remembering that within a workplace environment the need to introduce all reasonably practicable control measures to control the spread of the virus is a duty placed upon the employer – regardless of any other guidance that may be issued to the general public in relation to their day to day contact. 

We believe that the use of masks where appropriate would be regarded as ‘reasonably practicable’ and that you should therefore give this careful consideration. We advise that you read this in conjunction with your risk assessments and government guidelines on physical distancing. Please note that such masks form part of what is known as ‘Respiratory Protective Equipment’ (RPE). Other, additional RPE may be required for work place activities.

The information available at this time suggests that a mask will not necessarily prevent the wearer from being exposed to the virus because the virus is so small that it can travel between the fibres of a mask. However, there is also an increasing body of evidence to suggest that the virus can travel further in the atmosphere than previously thought and particularly so where it is projected by a cough or a sneeze. It has been suggested that the small droplets that are expelled from a cough or a sneeze may travel for up to six metres. They may also, as micro droplets, hang in the air for prolonged periods. 

The purpose of wearing a mask maybe to restrict the outward projection of such droplets from the wearer and thereby reduce the amount of virus in the atmosphere, it’s travel distance and potentially the volume expelled. Wearing a mask also restricts the wearer from touching their nose and mouth and thereby reduces the likelihood of them transferring any virus from their hands to those parts of their body where it may be more readily absorbed. 

We advise that you introduce masks for those persons working in close proximity to other staff or contractors – close proximity in this case being less than six meters. We advise that masks are worn where any vehicles or equipment are used or may be shared (even where you are also using decontamination and hygiene procedures) given the stated ease with which this virus spreads and the length of time that it said to be able to survive on surfaces. The mask specification should be FFP3.

Please ensure that masks are not reused or shared, and that soiled or damaged masks are disposed of in a manner that avoids cross contamination and that staff follow the basic good hygiene practices currently advocated by the government. 

Oliver Dale April 2020

Safety Revolution Ltd ©

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