On June 10, 2020, in a series of six “frequently asked questions and answers” (Face Coverings FAQs), OSHA provided its first general guidance on the use of cloth face coverings in the workplace. In announcing the FAQs, OSHA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Loren Swett, stated that it was issuing the guidance because “millions of Americans will be wearing masks in their workplace for the first time” and “OSHA is ready to help workers and employers understand how to properly use masks so they can stay safe and healthy in the workplace.”
The Face Coverings FAQs document is the first COVID-19 guidance that OSHA has provided in a Q&A format. In this format, OSHA’s guidance may not provide straightforward answers to many employers’ questions. For most employers, the most important takeaway from the Face Coverings FAQs is: Cloth face coverings are not OSHA-required personal protective equipment (PPE), which must be provided and paid for by an employer; however, an employer may recommend or require cloth face coverings as a method of non-PPE virus “source control” and as part of a COVID-19 infection response plan. OSHA does not address whether employer-required cloth face coverings, when required as non-PPE “source control,” must be paid for by the employer.
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