We’re all getting used to the new realities of workplaces needing enhanced health and safety policies to mitigate risks of coronavirus contamination. As a specialist cleaning company, we provide regular deep cleaning and decontamination services that play a key role in this. But many of the actions must be taken by individuals within the workplace. Hand hygiene and social distancing remain absolutely crucial in reducing the spread of the virus. The other important element is face coverings. In this blog, we look at facemasks: the evidence on their effectiveness, what to look for, and how to make your own.
Why facemasks may help in the fight against coronavirus
SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus which causes Covid-19. As it’s a new virus, there have not yet been definitive studies on many aspects of the virus. Nevertheless, it is generally agreed that the main form of transmission for the virus is larger droplets and smaller aerosol particles from an infected person. These are transmitted when that person coughs, sneezes or talks. There is some evidence that these particles can carry a significant viral load for some time.
However, there is an added complication that has made Covid-19 so difficult to deal with during the pandemic. As the virus has a long incubation period, some people can transmit the disease before they’re showing symptoms. Alternatively, they may not even develop symptoms at all. This is called ‘asymptomatic’ transmission. Therefore, for most people, wearing a facemask is actually not about protecting the wearer. Rather, it aims to protect against the wearer inadvertently transmitting the disease to others, should they be carrying the disease without showing symptoms.
We still need to prioritise PPE for frontline workers
The exception to this is in a healthcare setting. There, a medical-grade mask is intended to form part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects the wearer from infection. Such masks can include N95 respirators among other models. They often need to be fit-tested and are specifically designed for close contact with infected patients. What’s more, they’re single-use or limited use, so must be carefully disposed of as potentially biohazardous waste. For these reasons, medical-grade facemasks should continue to be prioritised for frontline workers in healthcare settings.
Making your own facemasks may be the best option
Generally, the best option outside a healthcare setting is a reusable, handmade cloth mask. It’s worth noting that cloth masks don’t have to conform to any standards, so be careful about sourcing them. There are several options. For commercially made masks, you can choose between cotton or synthetic fibres, and they may include a filter or filter pocket. Alternatively, there are widely available templates and patterns for making your own facemask. These include a no-sew facemask cut from an old T-shirt or pillowcase, and a sew-your-own pleated version. It’s also worth considering making the facemask multi-layer, to improve both its filtration and comfort. Most crucially, the facemask must fit tightly to be effective, which may be a particular challenge for people who wear glasses.
Regardless of the specifics of the facemask, the most important thing is to remember the basic rules of hygiene and social distancing throughout. Don’t touch your face while wearing or removing the mask, so ensure that the ties are easy to use from the back. Avoid where possible coming within two metres of people who are not members of your household, even when wearing a facemask. Always make sure used masks are washed in warm soapy water. And ensure that you wash your hands and clean any surfaces that been in contact with a used facemask.
Facemasks can play a role alongside deep cleaning and hand hygiene
To mitigate coronavirus risks within a workplace, employers need to take positive actions. It’s vital to enhance health and safety policies to accommodate such actions, and to communicate what employees are required and expected to do. Even outside healthcare settings, employers can do much to reduce risks of coronavirus transmission. Instituting regular deep cleaning of communal and high-contact areas is one critical step to take. Clear reminders about hand hygiene and social distancing will help. And encouraging employees and visitors to use facemasks, or even providing them, is another way for organisations make a health and safety commitment.
For more information about facemasks, see the article in Which?:
The UK government has also issued some guidance on wearing and making facemasks
Contact one of the team today to find out how facemasks can sit alongside our deep cleaning services, hand hygiene and social distancing within an enhanced health and safety policy.
Post by Shaun D. Doak
Shaun is the CEO of React Group plc., a business dedicated to specialist cleaning, hygiene and decontamination. He is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our company’s clients receives the highest possible level of service. An expert in HVAC and commercial and industrial cleaning methodologies, Shaun has extensive experience in the facilities management and renewable services sector.