Ask the Safety Expert: Do we have to wear non-medical face masks at work? How do you wear a non-medical mask safely?

Ask the Safety Expert: Do we have to wear non-medical face masks at work? How do you wear a non-medical mask safely?

​​​​​​​​Ask the Safety Expert: Cassandra Porpiglia

Q: Do we have to wear non-medical face masks at work? How do you wear a non-medical face mask safely?

A: Thanks for the question! A non-medical mask is not considered personal protective equipment, and is therefore not regulated. However, there is evidence that suggests COVID-19 may be transmitted by people who have the virus but are not showing symptoms. 

Wearing a non-medical mask in public places for short periods of time, when physical distancing cannot be maintained, is a way to help protect those around you. 

Much like covering your mouth when you cough, a non-medical mask can reduce the chance that others will come into contact with your respiratory droplets. 

A risk assessment of your workplace and consultation with your workplace health and safety designate is suggested as a first step when determining whether your workers need to wear non-medical masks. The Pan-Canadian Public Health Network on the Government of Canada website or Manitoba Health has provided information that can help you determine a course of action specific to your workplace.​
Handmade non-medical face masks
As for wearing a non-medical face mask safely: t​​​​he Government of Canada article, Non-medical masks and face coverings: How to put on, remove and clean, recommends the following steps:

How to put on a non-medical mask or face covering

  1. Ensure the face covering is clean and dry.
  2. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before touching the mask.
    • ​If none is available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol.
  3. Ensure your hair is away from your face.
  4. Place the face covering over your nose and mouth and secure to your head or ears with its ties or elastics.
    • ​Adjust if needed to ensure nose and mouth are fully covered.
  5. The mask should fit snugly to the cheeks and there should not be any gaps.
  6. Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after adjusting your mask (as in Step 2).
While wearing a non-medical mask or face covering, it is important to avoid touching your face. If you do touch your mask or face, you should immediately wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol.

How to remove a non-medical mask or face covering
 
  1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
    • ​If none is available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol.
  2. Remove the face covering by un-tying it or removing the loops from your ears.
    • ​Avoid touching the front of the mask when removing it.
  3. Store the face covering in a paper bag, envelope, or something that does not retain moisture if you will be wearing it again.
  4. After removing the face covering, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as in Step 1.

For further information on caring for your used non-medical face mask, and for the most up-to-date information, please see the Government of Canada's website

For further information about the use of medical and non-medical masks, please see Shared Health Manitoba's website or Manitoba Health's website

Cassandra Porpiglia is a Prevention Consultant in the Infrastructure Portfolio at SAFE Work Manitoba. 


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