TUMWATER — Most workers in Washington will have to wear a mask or face covering at work under new coronavirus workplace safety and health requirements that take effect June 8.
With some exceptions, workers must wear some type of face covering or mask to help limit the spread of the coronavirus to those around them. Other higher-risk jobs may require respirators to protect the worker from infection by patients or clients.
Under the requirements, employers must provide the face coverings and masks to employees at no charge. Workers can bring their own face coverings and masks as well, as long as they meet requirements.
Which mask for which task
The new Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) guidance document, “Which Mask for Which Task?”, describes various types of jobs based on the level of risk to workers, from negligible risk to extremely high. The publication spells out which face-covering, mask, or respirator is required for that task.
Along with details about the appropriate protective face covering, the guidance also includes photos to help workers and employers identify the type of mask required.
“We know that choosing the correct face covering, mask or respirator can be confusing. It’s a new experience for most employers and people on the job,” said L&I Assistant Director Anne Soiza. “This guidance should help employers and workers understand the risk level for various tasks, and make the right choice to protect workers from the coronavirus. Employers needing assistance can call on our statewide consultants for help.”
Exceptions to mask requirements
There are some limited exceptions to the workplace requirements for masks and face coverings. For example, someone working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site with no in-person interactions is not required to wear a face-covering or mask.
Other exceptions include workers who are deaf or hard of hearing or a person on the job who communicates with someone who relies on language cues such as facial markers and expression and mouth movements as a part of communication. A worker with a medical condition or disability that makes wearing a facial covering inappropriate is also exempt from the requirement.
New training and information
L&I has developed a training template that employers can use to meet requirements to train employees about coronavirus. It covers numerous topics including symptoms, transmission, face coverings and worker rights. The training is available in English and Spanish online.
The nature of the outbreak changes daily, so it’s important for everyone to have the most current information. L&I has a COVID-19 webpage, and there’s important information on the state Coronavirus Response (COVID-19) site. There’s also an online form for people to report suspected violations of the Governor’s orders regarding essential business functions, evictions, and social distancing.
Information is the best resource to protect workers and the public. L&I urges employers to stay as informed as possible and to take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.