Face coverings and face masks at work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Face coverings

Face coverings can reduce the risk against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, reducing the spread of droplets and aerosols carrying coronavirus (COVID-19). This limits the amount of the virus being released when people talk and breathe.

There is advice on face coverings on GOV.UK. This includes guidance on:

  • when and where you should wear them
  • how to wear them correctly

Separate regulations and guidance apply for public use of face coverings in Scotland and in Wales.

The use of face coverings is a public health protection measure. They are not classed as personal protective equipment (PPE) and are therefore not covered by health and safety legislation, because:

  • there is no need to conform to a manufacturing standard
  • they do not provide protection for work risks such as dust and spray

The risk of COVID-19 infection at work can be managed by following the right controls. You can identify these controls by doing a risk assessment. HSE has specific guidance on working safely.

Canvas face covering
Example of a face covering

Surgical face masks

Surgical face masks are designed to be worn in medical settings to limit the spread of infection. They are not considered to be PPE when worn outside of healthcare activities. Unlike face coverings:

  • they are manufactured to a recognised standard
  • some types are resistant to droplets of fluids and splashes
Surgical mask
Example of a surgical face mask

We review and update this page regularly to reflect any changes in guidance.

Page last reviewed: 19 January 2022

Next review due: 30 January 2022