Answering Employee Questions Surrounding the Use of Face Masks

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The world has changed in an unprecedented way since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and employers have a lot of questions for our experts at Safety.BLR.com®. Read on to see how experts answered a multi-part question from a subscriber about whether employers can mandate the use of face masks, and what should be done if an employee can’t (or won’t) use the PPE.

Q: As the COVID 19 crisis continues, can employers require and mandate the use of face masks in the workplace? What measures should be taken if the employee refuses or has an underlying medical condition that prevents their ability to wear a mask?

Answer 1: To answer your first question, you may require and mandate the use of face masks in the workplace in light of the COVID-19 crisis, but depending on the nature of your employees’ work, it may not be a recommended practice.

Under OSHA’s respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134), an employer must provide appropriate respirators, such as face masks, to employees when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of the employees. In light of COVID-19, OSHA has stated that employees in very high-risk and high-risk categories must be provided with adequate PPE, including respirators.

Very high-risk employees include healthcare, deathcare, and laboratory workers who perform aerosol-generating procedures on known or suspected COVID-19 patients or who handle specimens or body parts from such patients. High-risk employees are other healthcare and deathcare workers who are exposed to known or suspected COVID-19 patients, but not those exposed to aerosol-generating procedures.

OSHA has also advised employers to consider providing PPE like face masks to medium-risk workers if they or customers become ill. These workers are those whose jobs require frequent and/or close contact within 6 feet of those who may be infected with the virus but are not known to have contracted COVID-19.

This category of workers includes those who work with the general public in communities with ongoing community transmission and those who have frequent contact with travelers who may return from international locations with widespread COVID-19 transmission. OSHA has advised that the need for respirators by such workers would be rare. Read more here…

Source: HR Daily Advisor

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