McMaster University decisions related to COVID-19 are based on Public Health advice and government policy. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided where it is necessary as a reasonable precaution for the protection of employees when the work is required and the risk related to COVID-19 cannot be sufficiently mitigated through physical distancing and proper hand hygiene. (See also information recently released from the Government of Ontario related to wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge.)
We recognize that some individuals may prefer to wear non-medical masks or other face coverings, based on their own personal choices and levels of comfort. While such choices are permitted, it is important that employees understand non-medical masks and face coverings are not Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and will not be provided by the University.
Non-Medical Masks or Face Coverings
Face coverings/non-medical masks, like those made at home, are intended to limit the risk of the wearer exposing another person to undetected illness or infection, including COVID-19. These masks are not regulated and are very different from medical surgical masks or N95 masks.
Face Coverings do not necessarily provide the wearer with extra protection and they do not eliminate the need for physical distancing practices and hand hygiene.
If you do choose to wear a non-medical mask or face covering, it is important that the following measures are taken:
Masks for Work Where Physical Distancing is Not Possible
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided where it is necessary as a reasonable precaution for the protection of employees when the work is required and the risk related to COVID-19 cannot be sufficiently mitigated through physical distancing and proper hand hygiene. In such cases, PPE may include a mask.
A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. Surgical masks are regulated. If worn properly, a surgical mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria), keeping it from reaching your mouth and nose.
Medical masks continue to be in short supply and are valuable personal protective equipment needed by healthcare staff. Under circumstances where physical distancing is not possible, surgical masks will be provided in order to continue to work safely.
Masks for Healthcare Workers
An N95 mask or N95 respirator is a particulate-filtering face piece respirator that meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) N95 classification of air filtration, meaning that it filters at least 95% of airborne particles. N95 masks must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients.
All employees who are required to wear an N95 mask must first have specific training and respirator/mask fit testing successfully completed by Environmental and Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) or Faculty of Health Sciences Safety Office (FHSSO).