Learn more about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and whether or not your business should use it.
Latest Update - June 30th, 2021: BC's Restart is moving to Step 3 on July 1st, 2021. This means that businesses should begin transitioning from COVID-19 Safety Plans to communicable disease prevention.
Latest Mask Requirements
What is PPE?
PPE is a type of protection to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. The coronavirus is transmitted via liquid droplets when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes near another person. It can also be spread when someone touches an infected person or a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, mouth, or nose.
PPE can help reduce the risk of transmission in these situations. Types of PPE include medical and non-medical face masks, gloves, gowns and aprons, and face shields and eyeglasses. The most common type of PPE outside healthcare settings is face masks.
When to Use PPE
Under WorkSafeBC’s guidelines to safe reopening, PPE is typically recommended when physical distancing is difficult and physical barriers, such as plexiglass, are not practical. In these instances, cloth and surgical face masks can reduce the spread of the virus from the wearer to a nearby person. For that reason, you may need to ask customers to wear face masks to protect your staff, for example in a hair salon, as well as providing PPE for your employees.
As a private business, you are able to set rules for entering your premises, including requiring customers to wear a non-medical mask as part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan. Clearly explain the purpose of PPE to customers so they understand why it’s required.
Types of Face Masks
There are two options when it comes to choosing a face mask for employees:
Cloth masks can reduce the spread of droplets from the wearer to someone else. However, they offer limited protection to the wearer because they don’t form a tight seal around the face. They are easy to make and can be reused when washed daily.
Surgical (or Medical) Masksare typically found in healthcare settings, but are being widely used during the pandemic. Like cloth masks, they can reduce the spread of droplets from the wearer, without protecting the wearer in a significant way. Typically, these masks are primarily for health workers. However, it is possible to acquire them from medical equipment suppliers or even some general retailers. These are single-use masks.
Guidelines for Using Face Masks
To make face masks as effective as possible, it’s important to educate employees about their use. Stress they are primarily for the protection of other people, and ensure workers and customers know they should still follow physical distancing rules and stay home if sick.
WorkSafeBC published guidelines around selecting and using masks. These include:
- Keep your mask clean and dry
- Change your mask if it becomes wet, soiled, or damaged
- Use surgical masks only once
- Wash cloth masks every day and store in a clean, dry place
- Follow good hygiene guidelines even with a mask
- Don’t touch your mask while wearing it
Where to Get PPE
Small Business BC has created the Non-Medical PPE Marketplace to connect businesses with suppliers of non-medical safety equipment. If you are a PPE supplier, you can list your services for free to help supply other businesses with the safety equipment they need to operate.
If you decide your safety plan requires the use of PPE, please remember that it should be seen as a last line of defence—not a substitute for the correct hand washing, hygiene, and physical distancing.