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Masking Up at Work: Are You Doing it Wrong?

COVID-19 is a dangerous pathogen and properly worn masks can help reduce the risk of transmission. Numerous studies have shown that when coupled with regular hand washing and other measures, wearing masks is an effective barrier to viral spread. However, many people aren’t wearing masks correctly. An incorrectly worn mask is ineffective at protecting wearers or anyone they come into contact with at work.

Masks 101

It is important to find a mask that is easy to wear. Workers should select one that has a high thread count, or preferably, one with multiple layers. N95 masks are preferable to fabric masks. 

Face shields, while popular, provide virtually no protection against virus transmission. They only block direct ejection of viral particles. The design of face shields means that viral particles circulating in the air can circumvent the shield and enter through the nose or mouth.

If a worker opts for a fabric mask, he or she should make sure to wash it in the washing machine between uses. Workers with an N95 mask should dispose of it at the end of you day. There are growing concerns that people are not washing their masks with sufficient frequency and this may be facilitating viral spread among people who regularly wear masks.

It is also imperative that workers select a mask that covers both the nose and mouth. Covering the mouth without covering the nose provides no protection. Likewise, wearing a mask some of the time still leaves the individual exposed to viral contact during those times when the mask isn’t worn.

Individuals should not share masks with coworkers, family, or friends. Further, individuals should still maintain social distancing even when wearing a mask. Along with regular hand washing and other personal hygiene measures, this helps reduce the risk of viral transmission even when working from home.

Hand Washing Helps

Washing their hands after handling their mask can help prevent the spread as well. It is best to wash hands with soapy water for 20 seconds. If that is not possible, workers can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. They should also avoid putting their mask in pockets where it will come in contact with keys, cell phones, and other items. Virus particles from the mask can transfer to these objects and make it easier to contract COVID-19.  

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