Should businesses in the CKL use personal protective equipment ("PPE") for employees, such as non-medical face masks, gloves and eye protection?
Yes, PPE is an option, but only when the risk and hazards related to COVID-19 cannot be eliminated through following Ontario's new health and safety guidelines and other governmental orders and directions.
The Ontario government advises us that PPE should only be used when all other mitigation measures have been implemented, which can be found here:
If it is to be used, employees must also be trained on how to use PPE correctly, including fit, use, putting it on and taking it off, maintenance, cleaning, and disposal, as well as training on the limitations of PPE.
If PPE is necessary to control risks related to COVID-19, employers should consider what, if any, PPE the employer can provide. With all forms of PPE in high demand, any reopening plan that requires PPE should take into account what forms of PPE the employer has the ability to obtain. Regardless of the measures that are taken, it is important to ensure that safety measures are based on governmental and public health guidance.
Non-medical face masks continues to spur debate and confusion publicly. Canada’s Chief Medical Officer continues to affirm that individuals should wear a non-medical face mask when they are unable to maintain proper physical distance from others. A non-medical mask can reduce the chance of an individual’s respiratory droplets coming into contact with others or landing on surfaces. The use of a non-medical mask is primarily to protect an employee’s co-workers, as opposed to protecting the individual wearing the mask.
If an employer wants to require or encourage its workers to wear a mask, they should supply those masks. Any provision of masks to employees should be accompanied by a policy on non-medical face masks and training for employees on how to properly use a non-medical mask, as well as their limitations (as described above).
The Government of Canada does not recommend N95 masks for the general public and medical masks such as the N95 are only recommended for health-care workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings such as acute care, primary care and long-term care facilities.