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

Face coverings

Face coverings are mainly intended to protect others and not the wearer. When used correctly they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main sources of transmitting coronavirus (COVID-19).

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.

Controls can include:

  • adequate ventilation
  • high standards of hand hygiene
  • cleaning surfaces

Your risk assessment should reflect the public health regulations and guidelines for the nation you are in.

There is specific guidance on working safely.

There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering is still required as a precautionary measure.

You can find out when workers need to wear a face covering on GOV.UK.

Face coverings are not classed as personal protective equipment (PPE) because:

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

Find out more

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

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

The use of face coverings is a public health protection measure.

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

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 July 2021

Next review due: 31 July 2021