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Face Coverings

In some locations and settings, such as indoor retail and catering areas, the wearing of face coverings is mandatory for both staff and customers unless they are consuming food and drink or have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one or are not able to wear one, for example, because of their age or a health condition.

A face covering can be very simple.It just needs to cover the mouth and nose.It is not the same as a face mask, such as the surgical masks or respirators used by health and care workers.Similarly, face coverings are not the same as the PPE used to manage risks like dust and spray in an industrial context. 

Supplies of PPE, including face masks, should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.  

In areas where the wearing of face coverings is not required by regulation, event organisers should consider their use as part of their COVID risk assessment.

Please be mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.  Some people may also have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one, or are not able to wear one, for example, because of their age or a health condition.   

The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect the user, but it may protect others if the user is infected but has not developed symptoms. 

Businesses are also required to remind customers to wear face coverings where this is mandated (e.g.by displaying posters).

People are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet.

Guidance on face coverings can be found here

It is important to know that the evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small, therefore face coverings are not a 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.These other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace and government would, therefore, not expect to see organisers or employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.

People should remove face coverings if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification.

Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one.This means telling workers:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it.
  • When wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands.
  • Change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it.
  • Continue to wash your hands regularly.
  • Change and wash your face covering daily.
  • If the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions.If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in usual in the non-recylable waste stream.
  • Practise social distancing, wherever possible.

Face-coverings can be made at home and guidance on how to do this can be found here

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