Face Coverings and Face Masks for Offices

The most up-to-date government guidance states that everyone should work from home where possible, but if you need to go into the office, what is the legislation on wearing face masks in offices?

In all retail settings, it is now compulsory for staff and customers to wear face masks, and the government’s position on face mask-wearing has changed, often rapidly, during the last few months.

Let’s take a look at some questions about working safely in offices during Covid-19 and whether you should wear a face mask in your office.

How can office staff social distance effectively?

Within your risk assessment, consider the size of the office space available and work out how many staff can safely social distance while at their desks. It may be necessary to move desks so colleagues are back to back or side by side rather than facing each other to ensure a safer office working environment.

Within the majority of offices, the space available is likely to be much less than usual. This can be overcome by office staff working at home and attending the office on a rota basis to reduce the number of people in the office at any one time to ensure social distancing is maintained.

Ensure all office staff has designated desks and avoid ‘hot-desking’ if at all possible to reduce the risks further.

Reduce face-to-face meetings and encourage calls or video conferences to avoid in-person meetings with external contacts or colleagues outside someone’s immediate team.

How to keep the office environment safe?

Other measures to keep the office environment safe can also be installed to help protect office workers further. These include solutions such as desk dividers, desk partitions, and freestanding walling.

Introducing a one-way system for entrances, exits, stairwells, and corridors in the office will reduce contact between staff, add signage reminding staff which way to go. Further precautionary action is to take the temperature of office staff upon arrival. This ensures all staff is well to attend the office and protect colleagues.

Having allocated and staggered break times, arrival, and departure times within the office is also advisable and again reduces contact. Proper ventilation will help to keep offices COVID safe, open windows and doors to let fresh air in and aid ventilation.

Do office workers have to wear face masks?

Currently, the government has no plans to make people wear face masks in offices, with the most recent advice being that office workers should work at home where possible.

Banks, building societies, estate agents, and post offices fall under the same rules as retail shops for wearing masks when facing customers.

If your company has dealings with the public you should wear face masks in office areas that are open to the public and where you come in close contact with the public.

People are also being encouraged to wear a face-covering or face mask in other enclosed public spaces if social distancing is difficult.

What about communal areas and kitchens in offices?

Some offices may request that staff wear face masks in office communal areas such as kitchens and corridors where contact with other office workers occurs.  One way systems and limiting the number of staff on breaks at the same time will help or incorporate a one person in, one person out system in communal kitchens and toilets.

It’s not just office staff, but cleaners, security staff, contractors, delivery drivers, and in fact anyone visiting your office premises. Ensure any staff or people visiting your office are logged so they can be tracked if necessary.

Are there exemptions for wearing face masks?

Are there exemptions for wearing face masks?

There are several categories and reasons which make it exempt to wear a face mask. Firstly, children under the age of 11 do not have to wear a face mask.

Also, people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability are also exempt, as are police officers, and other emergency workers.

If you are helping someone who relies on lip-reading, again you don’t have to wear a face covering.

To avoid confusion, those that are exempt can wear an exemption card or badge, and it should be noted that no one who is exempt from wearing a face-covering should be denied entry if they are not wearing one.

What extra precautions can office managers and staff take to keep desks and offices clean?

Frequent surface cleaning of all office objects and desks should be done regularly. Removing all personal items on desks is advisable and operating with just essential office equipment. If desks, computers, and keyboards, etc are used by different staff, these should be cleaned between each use.

You can limit or restrict the use of high-touch items and equipment, such as printers or whiteboards. All staff should be asked to sanitise hands upon arrival and ensure there are handwashing facilities with soap, water, and paper towels in place.

Provide additional PPE to cleaning and premises staff if required and ensure that high contact areas in office and communal areas are cleaned and sanitised each day.

Face Masks And Other PPE For Offices

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*All information on this page should be used as basic guidance only, you must refer to the Government Guidelines for up to date information.