COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets that are transmitted whenever a person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The virus may also attach to objects and surfaces. To protect from COVID-19, people are advised to maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently, and use a face mask.
By wearing a cloth or surgical mask, your respiratory droplets are trapped by the cloth or surgical mask, preventing them from infecting others or attaching to objects and surfaces. If you use an N95 mask, your N95 mask has the ability to filter out the air you breathe and capture airborne particles that may carry viruses and bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require the use of face masks when going out to public settings. It is especially important to use a cloth mask, surgical mask, or N95 mask when in crowded places or areas with poor ventilation.
Do employers provide employees with masks?
This greatly depends on where your office is located. Some states require face masks to be used in certain occupations. For instance, Ohio requires businesses to provide employees with face masks. Similarly, employees in Ohio are required to wear a face mask or give a written explanation in case they are unable to wear a face mask. In Connecticut, face masks are required in office buildings. In states where face masks must be worn by employees, the employer is generally required to provide these masks to them.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) did a survey on HR professionals in May and found out that 86 percent of businesses planned to require their employees to use face masks at work, while 80 percent of these businesses planned to pay for their employees’ masks.
Face masks in the workplace
Because of the way COVID is spread, it is important to wear cloth, surgical, or N95 masks in the workplace. The kind of face mask you wear depends on the type of job you have and the tasks you perform each day.
Regulations concerning the use of face masks have exceptions for people who cannot safely use a cloth, surgical, or N95 mask. Those that have existing medical problems and trouble breathing may experience worsening of their condition when using a cloth or surgical mask. In this case, employers should look for alternatives, such as letting workers use a clear face shield or letting the employee work in a spot away from others.
There are also some workplace situations where it is not ideal to use a cloth mask. For example, a cloth mask could be contaminated with chemicals which in turn might be inhaled by the worker. Similarly, cloth coverings may become damp or collect infectious materials from the environment. Employees who rely on lip-reading may find cloth masks to be a communication barrier. A transparent mask can be worn in this case.
Needless to say, healthcare workers need to use surgical masks or N95 masks depending on their area of assignment and the tasks they accomplish each day. Healthcare staff that looks after COVID-19 patients need a surgical N95 mask. Workers who perform procedures that generate aerosol or involve high-velocity streams of body fluids and liquids also need a surgical N95 mask.
Healthcare staff that does not perform such activities may use a surgical mask. However, if there is enough supply of N95 masks, they may use an N95 mask in the workplace. An N95 mask filters out at least 95 percent of airborne particles while a surgical mask only traps large droplets, making the N95 mask a better option for optimal protection from COVID-19.
Face masks boost comfort levels
Besides adhering to legal obligations, providing face masks to your employees and encouraging them to use face masks can make the whole workforce feel safer. A lot of employees are concerned about getting the virus in their place of work. By providing them with face masks, employees will feel comfortable and more willing to return to work. Knowing that co-workers will be wearing face masks gives them a sense of security.
Some employers even send masks to employees who are working from home in an effort to boost their morale. Customized face masks are a wonderful addition to a thank you kit that is sure to lift anyone’s spirits. These masks may be customized with motivational quotes to add a little flair.
Wearing face masks properly
For a cloth mask, surgical mask, or N95 mask to be effective, it has to be worn properly. A cloth mask and surgical mask should cover the mouth and nose and be secured under the chin. It should fit snugly on the sides of the face without any gaps. An N95 mask, on the other hand, should create a seal over the nose and mouth. A fit test and user seal check should be done before using an N95 mask.
Regardless of the type of face mask you wear, you should wash your hands before and after handling it. A surgical mask and N95 mask are ideally disposed of after use while a cloth mask may be washed and reused. Wash your cloth mask in the washing machine and air dry it under the sun or on a high setting. You may also soak your cloth mask in bleach solution for five minutes.
Face masks are essential to make the workplace safer for employees and customers. Whether your employer provides free face masks or you need to buy your own, make it a habit to wear your face mask and don’t wait for your attention to be called. Worse, don’t wait to get the virus before you do something about it.