Simon Brentnall (BFFF Head of Health & Safety) explains more on the difference between face masks and coverings.
Where a company is already using personal protective equipment (PPE) for a work activity to protect against risks such as ingredient dust and other hazardous substances, they should continue to do so. When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE. The exception is clinical settings such as hospitals and healthcare.
If your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly and face fit testing provided to the employee.
There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. A face covering is not the same as a face mask used in the control of substances hazardous to health (CoSHH) as above in an industrial context and are no replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work, and increasing hand and surface washing. The government would therefore not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments. If you need or choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off. Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. This means instructing workers to :
To help employers with the face coverings a cross sector working group helped Defra produce the following frequently asked questions to compliment government guidance:
Wearing a face coverings will become mandatory on public transport as from 15th June 2020 but not currently required by law in the workplace.