Face coverings are mainly intended to protect others and not the wearer. The risk of COVID infection at work must be managed by following the right controls, including:
- social distancing or, where that is not possible, reducing the number of people in the work area
- high standards of hand hygiene
- increasing surface washing
- assigning and keeping people to shift teams
- using screens and barriers to separate people from each other
These are the best ways of managing risk in the workplace. You can find specific guidance on working safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
If your workers choose to wear face coverings you should support them. There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering is required as a precautionary measure.
Face coverings are not classed as personal protective equipment (PPE) as they:
- are generally not manufactured to a recognised standard and not CE marked
- do not provide a proven level of protection for work risks such as dust and spray
There is more advice on face coverings on GOV.UK.
Surgical face masks
Surgical face masks are designed to be normally worn in medical settings to limit the spread of infection. Wearing them should be very limited outside of healthcare activities because they are not generally considered to be PPE in non-healthcare situations.
Unlike face coverings, they:
- are manufactured to a recognised standard
- are resistant to droplets of fluids and splashes