In this section
6.1 Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so.
COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.
Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Unless you are in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is extremely limited. However, if your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly.
6.1 Face coverings
By law, staff and customers of venues that provide food and drink will be required to wear a face covering, unless they have an exemption. By law, all businesses must remind customers and staff to wear a face covering where required (for example by displaying posters). You are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it.
A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It just needs to cover your 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, must 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.
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 employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.
Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and for customers in a number of indoor premises including at pubs, bars, restaurants, cafés and takeaways. Face coverings may be removed when seated to eat or drink in a pub, bar, restaurant or café. You must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking.
Find further detail on when and where to wear face coverings.
Businesses should take reasonable steps to encourage customer compliance for example through in store communications or notices at the entrance. If necessary, police can issue fines to members of the public for non-compliance. Businesses will not be required to provide face coverings for their customers.
Some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons. No one who is exempt from wearing a face covering should be denied entry if they are not wearing one.
Employers must ensure all staff of venues that provide food and drink wear face coverings in areas that are open to the public and where they come or are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public, unless they have an exemption. Employers must not, by law, prevent their staff from wearing a face covering where they are required to do so.
Where face coverings are required for staff, businesses are expected to provide these as part of their health and safety obligations. However, staff are welcome to use their own face coverings if they choose.
If businesses have taken steps to create a physical barrier or screen between workers and members of the public then staff behind the barrier or screen will not be required to wear a face covering. Enforcement action can be taken if barriers and screens are in place which do not adequately mitigate risks.
Businesses already have legal obligations to protect their staff under existing employment law. This means taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include providing face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigations such as screens and social distancing Businesses should advise workers how to use face coverings safely.
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 before 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 your usual waste
- practise social distancing wherever possible
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.