It may not be a legal requirement, but should employers be providing face coverings?
The choice to provide additional protection and create the safest possible work environment lies with brands and employers, and the benefits will be three-fold:
- the employer has a healthier workforce
- the employees appreciate the effort being made to keep them safe
- clients will feel safer and see a brand that values its staff
Overwhelming scientific evidence indicates that airborne transmission via respiratory droplets is the main factor in the spread of the virus causing COVID-19, and that wearing a face covering is a key measure to inhibit transmission.
If we accept this, is it right to suggest that responsible employers manage and fund the provision of face coverings to employees.
The government has issued several pieces of guidance on the use of face coverings, and a recent article in Safety & Health Practitioner gave some good recommendations. The HSE expects employers to mitigate safety risks in workplaces and provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)* at work when risks are identified. I’m sure people will be asking whether putting staff in a working environment that increases their risk of exposure to COVID-19 means they have a liability/duty to provide face coverings.
I don’t expect to see any changes in legislation in the foreseeable future, so the question will be one for each business to assess the risks and consider its moral position in supporting their workforce and clients as they adapt. Companies can’t afford to close long-term, so to remain open and encourage safety, they should provide a working environment that can be trusted, regardless of how many of their employees or users are working remotely at the moment.
All Masks aren’t Equal
Within months of the coronavirus outbreak we (at BoxBuild) searched for technologies to combat the virus and keep businesses open. We formed a partnership with HeiQ, and formed AnyBrand to supply face coverings treated with HeiQ Viroblock, scientifically proven to be 20 times more effective barriers to the virus that causes COVID-19 than untreated face coverings.
Our government repeatedly states that face coverings ‘will largely be worn to protect others and not the wearer’. I have to say that, while appreciating the benefits for others, I also feel personally safer wearing a covering treated with HeiQ Viroblock, which destroys virus’s when breathing in, out and means my face covering is not a vector for transmission when touched and removed.
The climate crisis dominated the news agenda in 2019, so starting a new business in 2020 allowed us to enshrine sustainability within our product offering. The return to a single use plastics model for face coverings at the outbreak of the pandemic has been nothing short of a climate disaster. AnyBrand’s products are produced from recycled material, are reusable and are recyclable. We are committed to minimising the carbon impact of people staying safe, by the use of sustainable face coverings and want to work with organisations who share that ethos.
We are also introducing an HeiQ Viroblock surface coating, which is an effective anti-viral (and anti-bacterial) treatment that will keep surfaces clear for two months – rather than them needing multiple cleans every day.
*PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).