Face Masks in the Workplace

04 June 2020

One new aspect of PPE businesses may have to adopt is the use of face masks. While the Government does recommend wearing one on public transport, in shops and other enclosed places with people, wearing a mask is not a mandatory workplace measure.

Depending on business operations however, the use of face masks may be appropriate for your workplace. Here we take a look at some of the practical issues that arise with providing face masks to staff.

Offer masks if it’s difficult to practice social distancing

Wearing a cloth face covering is recommended in situations where it’s difficult to practice social distancing. Staff in retail outlets, for instance, may feel safer covering their face. Wearing of cloth face coverings may help prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from spreading it to others.

Continue hygiene protocols to minimise the spread of the virus

Face masks are not a substitute for the other hygiene measures that are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

Staff should continue:

  • Washing hands properly and often.
  • Covering their mouth and nose with a tissue or into their sleeve to catch coughs and sneezes.
  • Not touching the eyes, nose or mouth if hands are not clean.
  • Social distancing (keeping at least two metres away from other people)

When to wear one

A cloth face covering should cover the nose and mouth.

Staff may choose to wear a cloth face covering:

  • When staying two metres apart from people is difficult - for example, in shops, shopping centres or public transport.
  • In an enclosed space with other people.

Who shouldn’t wear one?

Cloth face coverings are not suitable for children under the age of 13 and anyone who:

  • Has trouble breathing.
  • Is unconscious or incapacitated.
  • Is unable to remove it without help.
  • Has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering.

Staff may need to be reminded not to criticise or judge people who are unable to wear a face covering.

How to wear one

A cloth face covering should cover the nose and go under the chin. The following checklist can be followed:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • Include at least two layers of fabric.
  • Allow for breathing without restriction.
  • Invite employees to talk about their concerns and suggest ideas for alternatives.
  • Listen to employees’ concerns and consider their ideas.

Using a cloth face covering properly 


  • Clean your hands properly before you put it on.
  • Practice using it so you are comfortable putting it on and taking it off.
  • Make sure it’s made from a fabric you are comfortable wearing.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with it and make sure there are no gaps between your cloth face covering.
  • Tie it securely.
  • Carry unused masks in a sealable clean waterproof bag (for example, a ziplock bag).
  • Carry a second similar type bag to put used masks in.


  • Touch a mask or face covering while wearing it - if you do, clean your hands properly.
  • Use a damp or wet medical mask or reuse a medical mask.
  • Share masks.
  • Lower your mask to speak, eat and smoke or vape - if you need to uncover your nose or mouth take the mask off and put it in the bag for used masks.
  • Discard masks in public places.

Taking off a cloth face covering

To take it off properly:

  • Remove it from behind – don’t touch the front of the mask.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean your hands properly.
  • Put disposable masks in a bin straight away.

Need our help?

For further advice on the use of face masks, call our expert advisors any time day or night on 1890 252 923. Our reopening toolkit also contains the most up-to-date advice for employers. 

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