Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) said that face masks should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Face coverings are now compulsory on public transport in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and in shops in Scotland
But Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told television viewers at the weekend that the UK government does not think face coverings should be mandatory in shops in England.
Now, a survey of 33 of Britain’s biggest contractors reveals that most, but not all, expect workers to wear face masks when within two meters of each other, but the type and quality of face masks that they supply varies considerably.
The latest government guidance Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) – Construction and other outdoor work includes a section on personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings. It says: “When managing the risks of Covid-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear will not be beneficial in the majority of workplaces.
“Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against Covid-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19. Unless you are in a situation where the risk of Covid -19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is extremely limited.
“The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. However workers and visitors who want to wear a face covering should be allowed to do so.”
Build UK asked its contractor members three simple questions on this topic.
What’s, your face mask policy for workers more than two metres apart, for less than two metres apart, and what type do you provide.
Here are the results:
Where workers are able to maintain social distancing of two metres, what is your policy regarding the provision of face coverings?
- 29 companies do not provide, or require, a face covering
- 3 companies provide either face masks or visors on request
- 1 company requires face masks (Type II R) to be worn for all task
Where workers are not able to maintain social distancing of two metres, what is your policy regarding the provision of face coverings?
- 23 companies require face coverings to be worn for all tasks undertaken within two metres
- 5 companies undertake a task-specific risk assessment to determine if face coverings are worn
- 4 companies do not require face coverings to be worn
- 1 company does not undertake any activity within 2 metres
If you require face coverings within two metres, what type is provided?
Of the 23 companies that require face coverings for all tasks undertaken within two metres:
- 11 provide an FFP2 face mask
- 4 provide a cotton face mask
- 3 provide a Type II R face mask
- 2 provide an FFP3 face mask
- 2 provide a visor
- 1 provides a Type I face mask
Last week the Unite trades union raised concerns about the latest version of the official site operating procedures for construction (SOPv5), criticising the guidance for being insufficiently specific on face masks. [See our previous report here.]