Job safety has always been a top concern for every employer. Today, not only do you need to protect employees from slip-and-fall, machinery accidents, and potentially toxic chemical exposure, you now have to account for the risk of contracting COVID-19.
To keep workers and their families safe, many workplaces have had to close their doors to prevent the spread of the virus. However, there are still businesses that have continued operations because they’re considered essential services. Perhaps, your business is one who is tasked with operating during the pandemic and implementing COVID-safe procedures - i.e., social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing masks indoors and in public places.
Social distancing can be difficult to arrange in workplaces, but mask-wearing has been shown to be one of the most effective measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Read on to learn more about how to keep your workplace safe by wearing masks.
Why Masks are Needed in the Workplace
Researchers from around the world have found that different kinds of masks can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Face masks prevent people from spreading their saliva and germs to other people. Masks also help protect the wearer if they are in close contact with other people, which is very important at plants and distribution centers where the work can require employees to stand closer than the recommended 6 feet away.
Types of Masks
Masks are designed to catch the droplets containing the virus exhaled by infected people. Masks can also protect the uninfected person from becoming infected. However, not all masks are equally effective at protecting from the spread of the coronavirus. Here’s a breakdown of the various kinds of masks and their usefulness.
Cloth masks can be effective enough for casual use in public situations. They are easily made or purchased. They can be used multiple times and can be washed after each wearing.
FDA Approved 3-Ply Surgical Face Mask
3-Ply Surgical masks are similarly as effective as cloth face masks and are designed for one-time use. The dark side of the mask is meant to be worn outward. This is the repellent side that catches outside droplets, preventing them from entering the inside of the mask and protecting the wearer. They are not designed to protect the wearer from breathing in viruses or outside bacteria. However, they are protective against absorbing droplets that could carry harmful bacteria and viruses. This type of mask will prevent the absorption of water, sweat, and spit.
For Medical Healthcare Workers: N95 Face Masks
In situations, such as workplaces with continual exposure to coworkers or the public, masks with a higher standard and rating should be used. In medical facilities, medical-grade N95 masks are often provided and required because of the superior protection they provide to healthcare providers. N95 masks are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers.
KN95 Face Masks
KN95 masks provide similar protection to N95 masks but are not considered medical-quality. They are more readily available and more affordable than N95 masks. KN95 masks are made from multiple layers of synthetic materials and filter out and capture 95% of tiny 0.3 micron particles in the air. KN95 is the standard in China, which has strict requirements for fit testing and tested to make sure it fits well around the face.
The Paper Bag Method of Reusing Your KN95 Mask
If you want to extend the usage of your KN95 mask, you can use the paper bag method. Since these bags are breathable, they can facilitate the cleaning of a K95 mask. Here’s what you do:
- Place the mask in the paper bag
- Wait 5 days before using the mask again, allowing germs to evaporate
- Discard the bag after you remove the mask from it.
It is important that you use a new paper bag each time you store your mask.
How to Properly Use a Face Mask in the workplace
Improper mask-wearing will increase the possibility of infection. Masks are designed to be worn over both the mouth and the nose so virus-containing droplets from breathing will not become airborne and will not be inhaled.
When providing masks, we suggest posting signage showing proper mask-wearing procedures including the proper position of the mask. Instructions should also include hand washing before putting on a mask and after removing masks.
Here’s a detailed infographic of how to properly wear a face mask.
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