Algoma Public Health
- Face Masks in the Workplace
Face Masks in the Workplace
Under instructions issued by the Medical Officer of Health, Algoma businesses and organizations must adopt a policy that requires all members of the public and employees who enter or remain in an enclosed public space to wear a mask or face covering.
A sample policy is available for businesses and organizations to adapt and use.
In addition to have a policy requiring masks, business and organizations must:
- Train their employees on the requirements of the policy and how to implement it
- Post signs to remind employees and customers about the requirement to mask (sample signs are available here)
- Be able to provide a copy of the policy upon request to a public health inspector or other person authorized to enforce the provisions of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA)
Members of public must wear a mask when in enclosed public spaces, unless they are exempted. This means any indoor space of a business or organization accessed by the public.
Everyone should also follow any other elements of a business’s policy on masks. This may include bringing your own mask to wear. Although businesses and organizations may choose to provide masks for customers, they are not required to do so.
Masks or face coverings must be worn in enclosed public spaces. This means indoor spaces of businesses or organizations which are accessed by the public. Masks should also be worn in other spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Retail stores
- Banks/Financial Institutions
- Convenience Stores
- Restaurants and bars
- Personal Service Settings
- Grocery stores and bakeries
- Churches or faith settings
- Farmer’s markets
- Areas of mechanics’ shops and garages, and repair shops which are open to the public.
- Community centres
- Private transportation (e.g., bus, taxi, or limo)
- Public transportation (e.g., bus or train)
- Business offices open to the public
Most people can wear a mask but the following groups should be exempt and accommodated. Do not ask for proof of exemption and avoid stigmatizing people who are unable to wear a mask or face covering.
Children under two years of age, or children under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a mask or face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
Persons with medical conditions who cannot safely wear a mask or face covering (e.g. due to breathing difficulties, cognitive difficulties, hearing or communication difficulties);
Persons who cannot wear or remove a mask or face covering without assistance, including people who are accommodated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or are protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H. 19 as amended;
Employees who are in an area of the premise that is not designated for public access, or who are within or behind a physical barrier (e.g. Plexiglass).
Yes - if employees are working in an enclosed public space, they should wear a mask, unless they are exempted, or are working from behind a barrier such as a Plexiglass barrier. This is especially important if physical distancing cannot be maintained. Wearing a face mask is NOT a replacement for physical distancing, hand washing, and monitoring your health.
Employees who wear masks help protect each other and customers. Likewise, having a policy for customers or clients to wear a mask will help protect employees and fellow patrons.
Canadian and Ontario public health officials recommend that medical masks, such as N95 respirators and surgical masks, are conserved for the health care setting.
For the general public, we encourage the use of non-medical cloth masks or face coverings that securely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping.
Masks or face coverings can be homemade or purchased. Items such as scarfs or bandanas may be used.
- Local businesses who supply non-medical masks can be found on this map resource
- Sew and no-sew instructions to make a homemade face covering are available here.
- More information on non-medical masks or face coverings is available here.
Establishments can determine their own policies as long as they include all the required elements listed in the instructions from the Medical Officer of Health. We have also created a sample policy that can assist you in creating yours. Since there are people who cannot use face coverings, appropriate and reasonable exemptions should be provided by the business.
Examples of people who should not wear a mask or face covering include:
- children under the age of two, or other young children who are not able to tolerate wearing a mask
- people with health conditions who cannot safely wear a mask such as those with breathing or cognitive difficulties
- people who cannot put on or take off a mask without help
Avoid stigma and allow for proper accommodations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and protections under the Ontario Human Rights Code. People should not be required to give proof that they can be exempted from mandatory masking.
APH has created posters for businesses to use at commercial establishments to alert any customer, patron, employee or visitor. Verbal reminders can also be provided to let people know they must wear a mask, unless they are exempt.
Behavioral science tells us that people are more likely to adopt behaviours when they are easy to do, have what they need to do it in the moment, and are reminded in the moment:
- Put up posters, signs and reminders
- Provide education and training to employees on how to wear a mask properly
- Provide masks to employees, clients or customers
- Consider different business models that work for your premise, such as branding items, provision of disposable masks at the door for free or using a cost recovery model, similar to plastic bag surcharges
Remember that some people cannot wear masks - provide service with physical distancing in these cases.
Establishments are encouraged to have disposable masks available for the public, but it’s not a requirement. However, visitors of a commercial establishment are recommended to supply their own face covering.
Businesses and organizations should implement and enforce masking policies in “good faith” and used to educate people on masks and face coverings and promote their use in enclosed public spaces. Local public health units consistently recommend that if people enter into a premise without a mask or face covering, they should be given a verbal reminder of the requirement to mask.
It is not the recommendation of public health that customers or clients be turned away if they do not wear a mask. However, the strength of enforcement is up to the local business or organization.
Do not require proof of exemption and avoid stigmatizing people who are unable to wear a mask and need accommodation.
Yes, that is ideal and should be practiced whenever possible. Wearing a face covering is an important additional measure when physical distancing is not possible.
In an enclosed public space, masks or face coverings must be worn at all times. Where necessary, masks or face coverings may be temporarily removed for the following purposes:
- Actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities;
- Consuming food or drink;
- For any emergency or medical purpose.
Face shields do not replace face coverings or masks. Your nose, mouth, and chin must be covered. Face shields protect the wearer from respiratory droplets but do not protect those around them; if face shields are used they must be worn with a mask. Remember that physical distancing is still the gold standard in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Although it’s become common to see people dangling their face masks from their ear loops or wearing them tucked under their chin with their mouth and nose exposed, PHAC advises against it. We advise wearers to avoid touching their masks as much as possible while they’re wearing them, which includes adjusting the position of them on their face. Additionally, there is always the possibility of contamination of the mask from bacteria on the chin or upper neck.
Public health is about following evidence. As the science and our understanding of the virus has grown, our stance on face coverings has evolved.
Increasingly, research points to the use of face coverings as an additional layer of “source protection”. We also know that epidemiological evidence indicates that the widespread use of face coverings by all persons decreases spread of respiratory droplets to others and prevents droplets from landing on surfaces when you cough or sneeze. Expert opinion supports the widespread use of face coverings to decrease transmission of COVID-19.
- Government of Canada, non-medical masks and face coverings
- Government of Ontario, face covering and face masks
- Public Health Ontario, COVID-19—what we know so far about…wearing masks in public (PDF, 1.2 MB)
For the best instructions on how to properly wear a face covering as well as how to safely put it on or take it off, we have created this video. In short, mask should be worn over the entirety of the nose and mouth.
No proof of a doctor's note is needed if someone is unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons. It is a 'good faith' system and up to the individual to be socially responsible with masking requirements.
Call or email the business and to speak with someone about your concern. The employee may have a medical reason for not masking. In addition, staff are not required to wear masks if they are behind plexi-glass or if staff are in an area of a building that is not for the public (i.e. a restaurant kitchen).