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OSHA FAQs: Face Masks and Respirators in the Workplace

As the national economy reopens, an unprecedented number of workers will be required to wear face masks in the workplace for the first time. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act), employers must provide a safe work environment for their workers. For many, this will include properly training workers on how to adequately use face masks at work.

To help with this requirement, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a series of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the use of masks in the workplace. The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. The FAQs also remind employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed.

In addition, the guidance notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on washing face coverings.

Employers should become familiar with this guidance and train their employees on the proper use of face coverings, surgical masks, respirators and other personal protective equipment. Employers are encouraged to review other OSHA guidance about COVID-19 safety by visiting the OSHA Coronavirus website. Additional business resources can be found on our COVID Business Resource page, which includes PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) guidance and more. 

This guidance is not an OSHA standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

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Disclaimer: The information and resources provided herein are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

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