Can A Face Mask Land You in the Penalty Box?

Just a quick heads-up for employers in this challenging period. With everyone thinking about COVID-19 and worrying about exposure, some individuals have become enamored with the idea of wearing a face mask for personal protection. 

In the past few days, I have observed a number of people wandering the streets wearing face masks. So it may only be a matter of time before an employee wants to wear one in your workplace. 

While this may seem harmless, employers should be cautious with respect to the use of face masks in the workplace. There is a much deeper discussion that the employer may need to have with regard to this issue. 

If the face mask is a respirator (think N-95), the voluntary use of a respirator in the workplace can draw an employer into the provisions of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.  Going a step further, if an employer decides to require the use of a face mask that is considered a respirator, the requirements under the standard become even more onerous. 

In this time of paranoia and hasty reactions, don’t let yourself get checked into the boards by allowing the use of a face mask or dust mask in the workplace that is actually deemed a respirator, without first getting advice from legal counsel.

Don Berner
Don Berner

Foulston Employment Law Partner