With the changing opinions about the wearing of masks and their effectiveness during COVID-19, it is difficult to understand the purpose, the requirements and the types of masks that are most effective.
The purpose of wearing a mask?
Firstly, wearing a mask will not stop the wearer from catching COVID-19. It is said that due solely to this ‘false sense of security’ masks were not mandated in the first instance.
Evidence shows that wearing masks makes a practical difference in reducing transmission. This is because masks help to reduce respiratory droplets spreading from person to person.
Who is exempt from wearing a mask?
Children under 12 years of age, people undertaking strenuous exercise, people with medical conditions where the wearing of a mask impacts their ability to breathe or their disability prevents them from applying or removing a mask, or if you enter a bank or other place where identification is required. It is important to note that people exercising must carry a mask and apply it once the exercise has ceased, and less strenuous exercise such as walking requires a mask to be worn.
Also, if you are driving a vehicle and are either alone or with a member of your household, you will not be required to wear a mask.
How should a face mask be worn?
The most important consideration is for the mask to cover the mouth and nose snugly. It is imperative that the airways are covered and no air can escape from the sides.
Ensure there are no holes in the mask, and wash your hands thoroughly before putting a mask on and before removing the mask.
Types of face masks to be worn?
Disposable surgical masks or reusable cloth masks are recommended. The guidelines for reusable cloth masks is that they are 3 layers thick and made of specific materials.
Whilst reusable mask with less than 3 layers or a scarf or bandana will not offer the same protection as a well fitted face mask, the message is that anything is better than nothing so if you don’t have a mask, this may be a solution.
People who wear glasses have had issues with their glasses fogging up whilst wearing a mask. It is recommended to wash the glasses lens in soapy water and let them air dry. This will prevent the lenses from fogging up.
People with beards can find it difficult to get a face mask to fit snugly. As a beard can reduce the effectiveness of a mask, beard wearers should look for options that provide the best protection.
Who pays for the mask?
Prior to the wearing of masks being mandated, if a workplace required their employees to wear masks, the workplace would be required to provide those masks for use.
As the direction is for all individuals in the lockdown areas (except those who are exempt) to wear masks when leaving their home for the 4 allowable reasons, it is the responsibility of every individual to ensure that they have purchased masks or have a suitable face covering.
Should your workplace require a specific type of mask to be worn ie., a medical grade mask, you may be required to provide these to your employees.
Whilst the information provided in this article is relevant to the Health Commissioner directive and detail provided from the Health Department, for any assistance in understanding your obligations with your employees, please contact us at [email protected] or 1300 720 004.
Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.