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Masks In The Workplace: What Qualifies as PPE?

Do all workers need to use masks in the workplace?

The most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection include handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting work areas, physical distancing, and having sick workers stay at home. Employers may consider the use of masks as an additional control measure in combination with these measures. Some industry associations may recommend the use of masks as a worker protection or public health measure. If your workers are wearing masks, ensure they are aware of the following:

• Cloth and surgical masks may not protect you from the virus because they do not form a tight seal with the face. However, they can reduce the spread of your respiratory droplets to others.
• Keep your mask clean and dry. If it gets wet, it’s less effective at preventing the spread of droplets.
• Change masks as necessary. You may need several masks available as they build up moisture during the day and become less effective. If your mask becomes wet, soiled, or damaged, replace it immediately.
• Make sure you know how to wear and clean your mask. Washcloth masks every day using the warmest water setting. Store in a clean, dry place to prevent contamination.
• Practise good hygiene even if you’re wearing a mask. This includes covering sneezes and coughs and washing hands. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, mouth, or mask (if you’re wearing one).

What are the differences between the types of masks and which should we use?

Learn more about the different types of masks and their appropriate usage by visiting WorkSafe BC's resources here

Examples of situations in the tourism industry where it could be recommended that employees wear a medical-level mask (i/o non-medical).

This is very much dependent on the employers risk assessment. However, in general, where physical distancing cannot be maintained between workers and other people, and where physical barriers are not an option, then non-medical masks may be recommended. Multiple people travelling in a vehicle, such as transporting tourists to a destination, may be a good example of this.

Is a blanket policy of 'all staff must wear cloth masks', even when spacing and barriers are in place, a good idea?

WorkSafeBC has not recommended this.

Could/would a blanket measure such as this actually increase exposure risk due to improper mask use, improper and infrequent cleaning, cross-contamination etc?

Possibly. There is a lot of information on the WorkSafe BC COVID webpage regarding the use of masks. Please review the information there. 

If part of the plan to protect employees is to ask visitors to wear masks, is it the employer's responsibility to provide the masks?

This is not a requirement in the OHS Regulation.