Algoma Public Health
Face Masks in the Workplace
The province of Ontario is experiencing a recent increase in the number of new cases and this has resulted in recent changes in current regulations. This includes mandating the use of a face covering in indoor settings across the province. These new restrictions were adopted through the amended order O. Reg 364/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 3 under the Reopening Ontario [A Flexible Response to COVID-19] Act, 2020).
All workplaces must put the necessary measures in place to protect the health of their workers and the public. The provincial government has recently enacted legislation regarding mandatory masking. They key differences between the provincial regulation and APH’s earlier issued instructions for face coverings are:
- In indoor employee only areas, if a distance of 2m (6 feet) cannot be guaranteed between employees, employees must wear a face mask or face covering. The mask must cover the mouth, nose and chin without gaping.
- Plexiglass is no longer identified as an exemption to wearing a mask/face covering. Therefore in indoor public areas staff behind plexiglass are now required to wear a mask/face covering. Plexiglass offers an additional layer of protection and should still remain in place.
- A surgical/procedure (medical) mask and eye protection must be used by workers when unable to maintain physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from any individuals who are not wearing a mask and a physical barrier is not present (e.g. restaurant servers)
More information for the provincial regulation is available.
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.
Facemasks are also required outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
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 employee only areas, and other spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Face masks should also be worn at indoor and outdoor organized events or gatherings when you are within two metres of another individual who is not part of your household.
- 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
WHO DOES NOT HAVE TO WEAR A MASK OR FACE COVERING?
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;
Plexiglass is no longer identified as an exemption to wearing a mask/face covering. Therefore in indoor public areas staff behind plexiglass are required to wear a mask/face covering. Plexiglass offers an additional layer of protection and should still remain in place.
Yes - if employees are working in an enclosed public space or cannot maintain physical distancing from other employees in employee only areas, they must wear a mask unless they are exempted. 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.
How well a mask or face covering works depends on the materials used, how the mask is made, and most importantly, how well it fits.
A mask or face covering can be homemade or purchased, and should:
- be made of at least 3 layers
- 2 layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
- the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric
- be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping
- allow for easy breathing
- fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
- be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
- maintain its shape after washing and drying
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.
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. Plexiglass is no longer identified as an exemption to wearing a mask/face covering. Therefore in indoor public areas staff behind plexiglass are required to wear a mask/face covering. Plexiglass offers an additional layer of protection and should still remain in place.
Wearing a mask can increase your risk of infection if you touch your face more frequently to adjust it or if you do not wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off. All parts of masks can become contaminated by breathing or when touched by your hands.
When taking off to reuse or discard a mask, follow these steps:
- After washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, remove your mask by pulling the ties or ear loops away from your ears.
- If your mask has a removable, single-use filter, make sure to remove and throw out the filter before machine or hand-washing your mask.
- For machine washing, put the mask directly into the washing machine. If you need to store it, store in a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and throw out the bag after you have used it. If the bag is washable you can wash it with your mask. Wash your hands again with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after handling your mask.
- You can wash the masks with other laundry using a hot water cycle.
- For hand washing, use laundry detergent and water as hot as it is safe, wash, rinse and then dry thoroughly.
- When discarding damaged or worn out masks, drop them in a lined garbage bin.
- Do not leave any discarded masks in places where others can come in contact with them, such as shopping carts, public seats, bus stops or on the ground.
- Cloth masks can be re-used throughout the day if not soiled and undamaged. With clean hands, remove the mask from your face and fold it in half so that the outer surface is inwards (so that the contaminated outer surface is not contacting anything during storage) and place it in a clean, sealable bag until ready to use it again the same day. Do not leave a mask that has absorbed moisture from your breath in a non-breathable bag or container for more than an hour or so.
- Disposable masks should not be washed, reused or recycled.