How and when to use face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On November 19th, Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, issued a new public health order to help reduce social interactions and travel. As part of this effort, face masks have now been made mandatory in all indoor public spaces. Read the mask mandate order.
WorkSafeBC published mask guidelines relating to the order: Read the mask guidelines.
Masks are now required for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces. People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt.
- Employers are expected to enforce the mandatory mask policy with both employees and customers
- A customer can be refused entry or service if they do not wear a mask
Masks in Public Indoor Settings
Masks are required in all indoor public settings and all retail stores. This includes:
- Malls, shopping centres
- Grocery stores
- Coffee shops
- Common areas in hotels
- Clothing stores
- Liquor stores
- Drug stores
- Community centres
- Recreation centres
- City Halls
- Restaurants and bars when not seated at a table
Masks at Workplaces
Masks are required in all workplaces for shared work areas and areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained. This includes:
- Customer counters
- Break rooms
- Meeting rooms with more than four people
Individuals are subject to a $230 fine if they:
- Do not wear a mask in an indoor public setting
- Refuse to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, including the direction to leave the space
- Respond with abusive or belligerent behaviour
In addition to compliance activities by WorkSafe, an Environmental Health Officers team will focus on workplaces in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions to ensure COVID-19 Safety Plan compliance and enable rapid response and action.
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) Masks are 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.
Government of Canada Recommendation for PPE Face Masks
A mask or face covering can be homemade or purchased, and should:
- be made of at least 3 layers
- 2 layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
- the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric
- be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping
- allow for easy breathing
- fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
- be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
- maintain its shape after washing and drying
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
Get more WorkSafeBC guidelines for using face masks and controlling COVID-19 exposures at work.
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.
Face Mask FAQs
How can I make my own mask?
The Government of Canada published advice on how to make your own face covering to help protect yourself and others from infectious respiratory droplets. Read Non-medical masks and face coverings: Sew and no-sew instructions.
What if a customer refuses to wear a mask?
The order states that employers may refuse entry or service to customers who are able to wear masks and refuse to do so. People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt. Under the order, individuals who refuse to wear a mask can be fined.