OSHA issues guidance on use of cloth face coverings when working in hot, humid conditions

To protect employees against the spread of COVID-19 and the risk of heat-related illness, OSHA has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings when working in hot, humid conditions.

Posted September 24, 2020

To protect employees against the spread of COVID-19 and the risk of heat-related illness, OSHA has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings when working in hot, humid conditions.

While the Agency generally recommends employers encourage employees to wear cloth face coverings at work to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, employees who wear them in hot, humid environments or while performing strenuous activities can find them uncomfortable.

Practices employers can take to help protect employees, include:

  • Acclimatizing new and returning employees to environmental and work conditions while wearing cloth face coverings;
  • Allowing employees to remove cloth face coverings when they can safely maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others;
  • Considering alternatives such as face shields when appropriate;
  • Increasing the frequency of hydration and rest breaks in cooled environments;
  • Encouraging employees to change cloth face coverings when wet, as wet face coverings make it more difficult to breathe and are not as effective;
  • Providing clean replacement cloth face coverings or disposable face masks, as needed, for employees to change into throughout the work shift; and
  • Planning for heat emergencies and training employees on heat stress prevention and treatment.

OSHA notes that cloth face coverings should not be considered a substitute for engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, or necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).

This article was written by Rachel Krubsack of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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