Do employees need to wear face coverings or PPE to protect themselves during COVID-19?

As businesses begin to open back up amid the Coronavirus pandemic many people are asking if employees need to wear face coverings or PPE, like respirators and gloves, at work. The decision to do so greatly depends on the type of work that is being performed and the rate at which that work is exposed to the Coronavirus. Exposure risk comes in four different categories: extremely high, high, medium, and low when calculating infection rates.

Very high exposure risk occupations often occur in the healthcare department where the presence of known or suspected cases of Covid-19 are present during specific medical procedures, like that of intubation. It is also present in postmortem and laboratory procedures. The next step down is those who work in high-risk environments. These jobs also often occur in a medical environment involving those who are healthcare and delivery support staff, ambulance vehicle operators, and mortuary workers. The need to have PPE available for use in both of these high-risk groups is essential for them to stay safe and healthy. According to the FDA, PPE such as N95 masks should be reserved for them.

Employees that work in medium-risk environments often work within 6 feet of others who may have Covid-19 but are not known or suspected to have contracted it. These can be jobs such as a school environment and some high-volume retail settings. Lastly, a low-risk occupation does not have the presence of other coworkers or the public at any frequency during working hours. Overall, these two categories have a much lower chance of contracting the virus, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have the option of trying to protect themselves and others even further. Facial coverings like cloth masks and utilizing proper social distancing will help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.


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