As we get into the long hot days of summer, complying with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations and state requirements for employees to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus may become more challenging.
We want to ensure you are aware that there are other acceptable options for employers to explore. The Occupational Health Administration (OSHA) states that “Where cloth face coverings are not appropriate in the work environment or during certain job tasks (e.g., because they could become contaminated or exacerbate heat illness), employers can provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face shields and/or surgical masks, instead of encouraging workers to wear cloth face coverings.”
The State of Massachusetts notes that “Face coverings are required for all workers, except where doing so may introduce a safety hazard to workers or where an individual is unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability.”
When making these types of determinations employers should be diligent about assessing and documenting their thought process for not requiring a face covering using a risk assessment. Document what factors make it unsafe for employees to wear masks during specific tasks or for the duration of a shift. Some factors to consider are chemical usage, heat exhaustion, difficulty breathing during high intensity work, and loose straps that may be caught in machinery or other moving parts. Depending on the hazards identified you will be able to suggest and assign potential solutions such as tighter fitting masks with no straps, face shields, or surgical masks.
CDC’s current stance still indicates that face coverings are the preferred method to contain respiratory droplets and slow the spread of the virus. If after your risk assessment is completed you have determined a different solution, such as a face shield, you may also want to consider other administrative or engineering controls such as increased social distancing when wearing face shields or additional physical barriers between workers. For more information and guidance visit the CDC’s Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings or OSHA’s Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions – Cloth Face Coverings.
If you are looking for assistance performing this type of risk assessment CAPACCIO can help! For more information contact Nick Grote at Ngrote@capaccio.com, Katie Grasso at Kgrasso@capaccio.com, or reach out to us on our main office line at 508.970.0033.