Health and Safety ReportVolume 18, Issue 06

On Topic

Get the Facts on Masks print this article

At this point during the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces in Canada are starting to reopen. Some businesses, especially retail and food stores, have implemented safety rules and precautions that ask customers and staff to wear masks. When worn properly, a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of the virus.

Types of masks

There are a number of different types of masks and respirators, and each type is designed for a specific purpose. Respirators such as N95 will protect against exposure to airborne particles, including viruses. Surgical masks are a barrier to spreading droplets and spit. Non-medical masks help limit the spread of droplets and spit when you sneeze or cough.

Medical masks (including surgical and procedure masks) and respirators are considered essential for health care workers and those providing during care to COVID-19 patients. They help protect workers or slow the spread of the disease. Respirators protect the wearer and those nearby from exposure to airborne particles, including viruses. N95 respirators are evaluated, tested, and certified by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) and are effective at filtering the virus. Surgical masks are a barrier to spreading droplets, and spit.

Non-medical or homemade face masks made using fabric can help prevent you from spreading your respiratory droplets to other people.  Homemade masks should use at least two layers of tightly woven fabric.  However, the fabrics used for these masks are not the same as materials used in certified respirators and do not necessarily filter viruses. Some homemade masks do include a sewn-in pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter for increased benefit.

Some commercially available masks feature exhalation valves which make it more comfortable for the wearer to breathe. However, because these valves may allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask, they are not recommended.

When to wear a mask

Wearing a homemade non-medical mask or face covering in the community is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings.

Though some stores are requiring shoppers to wear a mask, this is not a law. Retailers can enforce this rule in the same way that they may require customers to wear shoes if they want service.  In short, the retailer can ask that a mask be worn in the store and may refuse service to a customer who refuses to wear a mask or has a reason for not being able to wear one.

For employers, determine if the use of masks or face coverings is appropriate and acceptable to your workplace, workers, or customers. Keep up to date on the latest recommendations from public health or other authorities when determining these measures.

It’s your mask

  • Do not share your non-medical masks with other people.
  • Do not re-use disposable masks (unless your workplace is using an approved method to safely re-process and sterilize them).
  • Wash and dry cloth non-medical masks between uses.
  • Do not wear a damaged mask. It will be not effective at blocking droplets and particles.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, make sure the flexible strip is secured tightly over the bridge of your nose. Clean your lenses with anti-fog eyeglasses spray cleaner.

Do not wear a wet or dirty mask.  Wet masks will allow more air and small particles through than dry masks. A mask can become wet when you sweat, breathe, speak, shout, sing, sneeze, or cough. A mask can also become wet or soiled from airborne droplets from other people, touching dirty surfaces and then touching the mask, steam from cooking, the weather, or spray and dust from work processes. Wet contaminants such as bodily fluids can soak through a mask. Dirt and dust can also reduce the effectiveness of the mask or make it difficult to breathe.

All masks should be replaced or cleaned when they are wet, damaged, visibly dirty, contaminated (e.g., blood, respiratory fluids), or when breathing through it becomes difficult.

Remember that wearing a mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must consistently and strictly follow good hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical (social) distancing, and stay home if you are sick. Do not touch your face, mouth, nose, or eyes.




Podcasts: Keeping Both Young and New Workers Safe This Summer and Sun Safety at Work with Thomas Tenkateprint this article

This month’s feature podcasts focus on the episode Keeping Both Young and New Workers Safe this Summer and an encore presentation of Sun Safety at Work with Thomas Tenkate.

Feature Podcast: Keeping Both Young and New Workers Safe This Summer

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers advice and tips about keeping young and new workers safe on the job.

The podcast runs 8:13 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

Podcast: Sun Safety at Work with Thomas Tenkate

Dr. Thomas Tenkate, Associate Professor and Director at the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University in Toronto discusses the importance of sun safety in the workplace, developing a sun safety program, and his current project, Sun Safety at Work Canada, with CCOHS.

The podcast runs 7:11 minutes.  Listen to the podcast now.


CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!

See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode. Listen on Spotify.



Keeping Up with New Legislationprint this article

It can be challenging to keep up with ever-changing occupational health and safety legislation. This month we highlight amendments to provincial legislation in Quebec.


Amendments to Quebec’s Act respecting occupational health and safety came into force in May 2020 to permit specialized nurse practitioners to issue protective re-assignment certificates for workers whose health has been affected by exposure to harmful contaminants. (S.Q. 2020, c. 6).

Quebec’s Regulation respecting halocarbons has also been significantly amended (O.C. 201-2020). The reinforced regulation aims to reduce the release of halocarbons into the air in order to protect the ozone layer and minimize the growth of the greenhouse effect. The measures set out in the Regulation mainly target the refrigeration and air conditioning, plastic foam manufacturing and fire protection sectors.


For more information regarding recent regulatory changes CCOHS offers a paid subscription service, Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards, that provides a collection of all the health, safety and environmental legislation you need in one location.

Partner News

Add Your Feedback to the New Standard on Managing Impairment in the Workplaceprint this article

In the workplace, impairment from the affects of alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs can have far reaching consequences: increased risk of workplace injury, absenteeism, diminished quality of work, strains on work relationships, and deteriorations in employees’ physical, and emotional health.  These impacts can cost organizations in terms of productivity, accidents and insurance rates, disability and injury claims, as well as affecting workplace morale and culture.

To help employers with managing workplace impairment, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Group has released the new CSA Z1008:21, Management of impairment in the workplace standard for public review.   Anyone interested in the management of impairment in the workplace can access this standard and provide their feedback until July 31, 2020.

The standard, which follows occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) principles, specifies requirements for the management of impairment in the workplace while providing specific requirements and guidance for impairment due to substance use as they apply to:

  • Development of an impairment in the workplace management policy
  • Management commitment and leadership
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Communication, education, and training
  • Initial review and needs assessment
  • Return to work
  • Accommodation
  • Compliance to the policy and program
  • Continual improvement

This draft standard was developed by a committee comprised of specialists in drug testing, human resources, accommodations, human rights, mental health, addiction counsellors, and occupational health and safety.

The standard will be published in parallel with an implementation guideline, which will provide small, medium, and large Canadian organizations with advice on how to best apply CSA Z1008, with a focus on impairment due to substance use.

Viewing the Draft Standard

To view the draft on the CSA public review site users will need to create an account.

CCOHS Resources:

Tips and Tools

Stay on Top of COVID-19 Guidance to Stay Safeprint this article

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so too do the health and safety concerns for workplaces. How do we reopen safely? Do our workers need to wear masks? How do we promote physical distancing? Get guidance to help protect your workers and customers, in CCOHS’ latest tip sheets. Topics include:

  • Reopening for business
  • Types of masks, when to wear them, and how to care for them
  • COVID-19 screening tool
  • Disinfecting touch points
  • Preventing stigma

In addition to these tip sheets, guidance has expanded to include documents for additional higher risk workplaces and industries, including places of worship, agriculture, and restaurants.

Each of these tip sheets offers health and safety tips and good practices, for both employers and workers, specific to that industry or sector. Organizations and businesses can adopt this guidance to protect their workers and prevent the spread of infections.

 Sector-specific sheets include:

  • Agriculture
  • Airline and Ground Crews
  • Construction
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Day Cares
  • Emergency and Patient Intake
  • First Responders
  • Food Processing
  • Home and Delivery Couriers
  • Long Term Care
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Places of Worship
  • Restaurants
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Work Camps

Available in English and French, the tip sheets can be downloaded for free from the CCOHS website.

Stay up-to-date on new tip sheets by following CCOHS on social media.

Additional Resources:


New Scholarship to Encourage Women to Pursue Careers in Health and Safetyprint this article

If you are a woman enrolled in a post-secondary occupational health and safety program, you may be eligible for the new CCOHS Chad Bradley Scholarship.

The $3,000 award is open to women enrolled in either a full- or part-time program leading to an occupational health and safety designation from an accredited college or university in Canada. You are encouraged to apply online and will be required to submit a 500-800 word essay detailing why you are pursuing an education in occupational health and safety; your motivation and inspiration; what and how you expect to contribute to the field and/or safe work; and other achievements and activities that demonstrate a commitment to and involvement in your community, workplace, or school.

The scholarship was stablished by CCOHS' Council of Governors to honour the memory of former governor Catherine (Chad) Bradley who passed away in August of 2018 and pay tribute to her efforts as a leader in health and safety. The scholarship is intended to inspire and encourage women across Canada to pursue careers in the male-dominated occupational health and safety field.

The entry deadline for the Chad Bradley Scholarship Award is August 31, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EDT and winners will be announced in the fall of 2020.

Learn more about Chad Bradley as well as full details about the scholarship and how to apply on the CCOHS website:

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