Using face masks in workplaces

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Where the work or task requires the use of specific types of face masks in the workplace, these must be provided by the employer.

Where masks are required to be worn under Victorian Chief Health Officer directions, employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that employees wear a face mask while at work.

Employees have a duty to cooperate with their employer's actions to comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

Employees may already wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to control risks associated with their work. Where RPE is worn at the workplace, the employer must conduct a risk assessment to ensure the level of RPE provided controls the risks associated with their work including the risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The CHO direction to wear a face mask does not apply to people with breathing difficulties or any other condition that makes it difficult to wear one. For more information, call the DHHS 24-hour coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398.

Where employees have a condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, employers must implement other risk control measures, so far as is reasonably practicable, to control the risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace.

Correct use of face masks

Face masks are only effective when they are worn and maintained correctly. For example, it is very easy for a face mask to lose its effectiveness if it does not fit, if the front is touched whilst wearing it, or if it is not washed or disposed of appropriately.

Employers must also provide information, instruction, training and supervision to employees and contractors on:

  • when face masks are to be worn
  • how to put on and wear face masks correctly to ensure they are effective
  • how long face masks can be worn
  • how to remove face masks safely, including changing them during shifts
  • how to safely store and wash reusable face masks or dispose of single use masks

It is particularly important to provide training for reusable face masks (such as cloth masks), including for cleaning and storage.

Detailed information about the correct use of face masks, including how to safely put on, take off and clean or dispose of masks, is available on the DHHS website.

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