Face coverings are important for reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. They’re also required by law in many public spaces and workplaces throughout the United States.
But despite the clear imperatives, many people still wear face coverings incorrectly or inconsistently. We’ve all seen that person with an uncovered nose, or a dangling strap, or a mask that doesn’t quite fit right. Or doing, um, whatever this guy is doing.
To ensure your employees wear the right masks properly and consistently, it’s a good idea to create a workplace face covering policy. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when developing and implementing that policy.
Start By Communicating the “Why”
Explain why face coverings are important—why they’re important to your employees and your customers, why the policy adds value to the workplace, and why it’s important to adhere to the policy.
Employees should understand that wearing a mask is a way to protect each other as well as those most at risk. This will help you avoid potential conflicts, ease anxieties, and ultimately drive compliance.
Train Employees on the Policy
Thorough training is crucial. Educate your workforce on the ins and outs of the policy, as well as the basics of face covering usage and maintenance.
You’ll need to train employees on…
- how to properly wear face masks
- how to put a mask on
- how to take a mask off
- how to clean a mask and keep it clean, day in and day out
Focus on safety throughout your training. Employees should know your goal is not to control them or prohibit them, but to make sure that they and their coworkers stay as safe as possible.
In the language of policy, be as clear and specific as you possibly can about when and where face coverings should be worn. For example, you’ll want to inform employees that they should put on their face coverings before entering the building, and that they need to keep them on in any room other than their own private office with a closed door.
The policy should cover any location where your employees might congregate or share space:
- indoor and outdoor courtyards
…and so forth. Make sure every potential location a worker may occupy is covered and explained in the policy so no one’s caught off guard or misunderstands. It’s best not to leave any room for ambiguity here.
It’s also important to check all state and local mandates about where employees should wear face masks. Some rules state “in any public setting”—which may sound broad, but likely has a specific definition set out in regulatory language. Make sure your policy is as strict or stricter than the local mandates.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Inform employees about where they can direct questions and concerns about the policy. Give them contact information for someone they can get in touch with. If it’s your HR rep, for example, provide that person’s email or phone number—however they want to be contacted.
Whoever’s in charge of managing workforce questions and concerns, that individual or department needs to answer employees promptly and courteously. This not only solves immediate problems but also mitigates potentially antagonistic relationships. Responsiveness sends the message that employees matter and their actions make a difference.
Remember the Human
Employees should know you care about their well-being and their understanding of the policy. Returning to work can be a stressful experience for many people, and masks can compound the feelings of fear of uncertainty. Let employees know they reach out to HR if they have health concerns regarding face coverings—and inform them that all concerns will be handled confidentially and with care.
That said, you also need to inform employees of the consequences of not wearing a face covering when required. Don’t wait until an issue arises to determine how to handle things. Laying out the consequences ahead of time ensures that you and your workforce are prepared, and that all similar situations are handled in a consistent, unbiased manner.
Need help developing a face covering policy—or managing any other training or workforce safety and compliance need? KPA can help. Learn about our COVID-19 Safety Program.