As the wearing of face masks on transport is now a common practice, it is important for employers to understand their obligations in regard to provision of PPE to employees.
The National Return to Work Safely Protocol provides advice for employers for situations where a 2-metre worker separation cannot be ensured by organisational means and recommends alternative protective measures should be put in place, for example:
- Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards between workers,
- Maintain at least a distance of 1-metre or as much distance as is reasonably practicable,
- Minimise any direct worker contact and provide hand washing facilities, and other hand hygiene aids, such as hand sanitisers, wipes etc. that are readily accessible so workers can perform hand hygiene as soon as the work task is complete,
- Make face masks available to the worker in line with Public Health advice.
If face masks are made available to workers in line with the above advice, these can either be cloth face masks or surgical type face masks. The HSE has provided advice on the use of cloth face coverings for members of the public. The advice is available here and here. Download the poster on how to use face coverings here.
Respirators, for example, CE marked FFP2s would normally be required for workers who are considered at higher risk from occupational exposure to COVID-19 such as healthcare workers, paramedics or other occupations deemed at higher risk. The requirement to use respirators should be based on an appropriate occupational risk assessment and should be task specific.
The selection and use of respirators is very important. Fit testing is required to ensure the correct respirator has been chosen for the worker and a fit check should be carried out each time a respirator is worn. Preventing self-contamination when removing respirators is critical. To be effective, respirators require a tight seal around the face. Male workers using a respirator should be clean-shaven. A respiratory protection programme should be in place, which incorporates education and practical training.
Advice and guidance for healthcare workers on personal protective equipment including respiratory protection is available on the HPSC website:
The Health & Safety Authority has also published a guide to respiratory protective equipment:
Some more advise for employers, employees and a Frequently Asked Question s section:
Useful HSE UK poster on using disposable masks: