Facemasks in the workplace

On September 24th it was made mandatory for staff working in the hospitality industry, in England, to wear a face-covering in indoor areas of their workplace that are open to the public.

However, several queries were raised about the precise guidelines and regulations. Our leading team of Environmental Health Practitioners have collated the most frequently asked facemask questions we have received from our hospitality clients and have submitted answers

Q – My team have been wearing the clear visors, are these acceptable?

A – Clear visors are not considered effective in protecting people from coronavirus. The law now recognises this. The guidelines dictate that face coverings must cover the nose and mouth and securely fit around the side of the face.

Face coverings may be uncomfortable when worn for a long period of time, so think about regular breaks for team-members, where they can remove their face covering. One suggestion could involve rotating team members throughout the shift, with roles where face coverings are not needed.

Q – Do I have to provide face coverings for my team?

A – A supply of face coverings must be made available for your team to wear. It is likely that employees will want to wear their own face coverings, as they might be more comfortable, this is perfectly acceptable. Either way, it is important that there are enough face coverings to allow them to be changed if they become wet or dirty.

Q – I have a team member who has claustrophobia and wearing a face covering causes them distress, do they still have to wear one?

A – There are exemptions when employees do not have to wear a face covering. These include if wearing one would cause the wearer alarm, which would be the case if your employee suffers from claustrophobia.

However, it is important to consider how members of the public may react to an employee not wearing a face covering and how this may cause conflict. It is worth considering moving the employee to a role where a face covering is not required, for example away from the public, or positioning them behind a fixed screen.

Q – Face coverings are now mandatory for employees in hospitality settings, does this include kitchen and back of house team?

A – The law requires those teams working in ‘public spaces’ to wear a face covering. This means that people working in the kitchen or other back of house areas do not need to wear one unless your risk assessment requires them to do so. If food handlers are wearing face coverings, remember the food safety risk of them touching their face and then handling food. Remind team members to regularly wash their hands and not to touch their face.

These FAQs are intended to give you the confidence that you are abiding by these new laws. We understand that these are challenging times for the hospitality industry, and it can often be confusing.

We believe in making safety simple and that is why we offer a free COVID-19 Advice line as well as a selection of COVID-19 action packs to help you and your business.

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John Brennan


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