‘Which Mask for Which Task?’: Washington L&I offers guidance for employers


Photo: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

Tumwater, WA — New guidance from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is intended to help employers select the proper masks or facial coverings for workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under state safety and health requirements that went into effect June 8, workers – with some exceptions – must wear some type of facial covering to help prevent the spread of the disease. Employers must provide workers with the masks at no charge, or employees can supply their own as long as they meet state requirements.

Which Mask for Which Task? details the use of masks or, in some cases, respirators based on the job-related risk, from negligible to extremely high. The guidance also lays out the minimum level of facial coverings required if no other feasible measures can mitigate spread of the disease.

For example, small landscaping crews, a crane operator who is in an enclosed cab and delivery drivers who have no face-to-face interaction with customers are considered at negligible risk. Meanwhile, emergency medical technicians, occupational or physical therapists, and workers in long-term care facilities are categorized as extremely high risk.

For each level of risk, a photo of the appropriate facial covering, mask or respirator is included.

“We know that choosing the correct face covering, mask or respirator can be confusing,” Washington L&I Assistant Director Anne Soiza said in a June 5 press release. “It’s a new experience for most employers and people on the job. This guidance should help employers and workers understand the risk level for various tasks, and make the right choice to protect workers from the coronavirus.”

Help keep COVID-19 at bay: 13 healthy habits and behaviors


Photo: puckons/iStockphoto

Making personal hygiene and cleanliness a priority are among the 13 healthy behaviors and habits one Ball State University professor says can help lower your risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 – and help you stay healthy in the future.

Jagdish Khubchandani, a health sciences professor, based his research on mechanisms of transmission and characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. His recommendations:

  1. Shower regularly, because COVID-19 can live on surfaces for days.
  2. Keep your clothes clean. Don’t wear the same clothes for several days, and do laundry frequently.
  3. Don’t bite your fingernails or rub your eyes. If you’ve got young kids, discourage them from thumb-sucking.
  4. Try not to scratch your face, head or body.
  5. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  6. Don’t litter – either inside or outside your home. You don’t want to raise the risk of illness for family members, waste management workers or trash pickers.
  7. Remove all leftovers, trash, masks and gloves from your car and dispose of them.
  8. Maintain good hygiene while growing out hair, beards or nails, or using hair and face accessories.
  9. Cover your face when coughing or sneezing to avoid spreading germs.
  10. Wash your hands after using restrooms, being in public places such as gas stations and grocery stores, or using elevators.
  11. Clean your cellphone and computer devices, along with desk spaces.
  12. Don’t rely on carryout or restaurant deliveries as your only source of meals. Try to add more healthy foods to your diet.
  13. Don’t reuse masks, gloves or personal care devices without cleaning them.
  14. “During and after the pandemic crisis, we need greater awareness, collective action and common civic behaviors driven by scientific evidence on transmission of emerging infectious disease agents such as coronaviruses,” Khubchandani said in an April 28 press release. “We must not hesitate from educating or questioning family members, colleagues and the general public on behaviors that pose danger.”

Coronavirus Protection

A new OSHA alert and guidance document on COVID-19 provide general practices to help prevent worker exposure to corona virus.

Illustration of a coronavirus

“Protecting the health and safety of America’s workforce is a key component of this Administration’s comprehensive approach to combating the corona virus,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “This guidance outlines practical ways that employers and workers can address potential health risks from the corona virus in their workplaces.”

This guidance is part of the Department of Labor’s ongoing efforts to educate the workers and employers about the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • In addition to the guidance, OSHA recently launched a COVID-19 webpage that provides infection prevention information specifically for workers and employers, and is actively reviewing and responding to any complaints regarding workplace protection from novel corona virus, as well as conducting outreach activities.
  • The Wage and Hour Division is providing information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19, including effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has also published guidance for federal employees and outlines Federal Employees’ Compensation Act coverage as it relates to the novel corona virus.

For further information about Corona virus, please visit the HHS’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.