COVID-19: Working in Close Contact (less than 2 metres of others)

The University has enhanced mask requirements for those who are at higher risk of exposure because of their work situation. Faculty, staff and students who must work in close contact, within less than 2 metres of others, are required to wear a medical mask.

Eye protection (goggles or face shields) is not required for the majority of UofG work situations, under the Provincial COVID-19 Response Framework.  However, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) will consider individuals who must work in close contact (less than 2m) for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period with a positive case who are not separated by barriers (plexiglass) and NOT wearing eye protection as a high-risk contact. In such a scenario WDGPH would require both the individual who tested positive and the contact to self-isolate.  This may pose a business continuity concern for certain departments. Accordingly, the use of eye protection for those that must work in close contact, within less than 2m of others will be determined by departments based on operational needs.  

Disposable face shields will be made available on request to those who must work in close contact, within less than 2m of others, irrespective of operational need. Face shields are not recommended for use by drivers in vehicles. The use of eye protection (face shields or goggles) and other personal protective equipment (PPE) has already been established for certain employee groups in specific work settings with close contact with others and/or potential positive cases. These employees must follow established PPE requirements for their work areas and tasks.

The University’s COVID-19 existing precautions and PPE requirements have been determined in consultation with the local public health unit and in accordance with provincial and federal COVID-19 recommendations. These enhancements are intended to strengthen existing precautions, recognizing the increased transmissibility of the COVID-19 variants.

Medical masks are not required for those who are able to maintain physical distancing during their work. Public health agencies continue to recognize well-fitting, properly-worn 2- and 3-ply non-medical masks as an effective source control and protection from COVID-19 and its variants, and non-medical masks continue to be acceptable in public and workplace settings. Other measures also continue to be prioritized, including self-screening, cleaning and disinfecting high frequency contact surfaces, practicing proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

Medical Masks

Medical masks refer collectively to “Surgical masks”, “Isolation masks” or “Procedural masks”. Medical masks used in Canada and the United States are typically classified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) as “Level 1”, “Level 2” and “Level 3”.

Many commercially available “non-medical disposable masks” have a similar appearance to medical masks, but they have not been evaluated or tested to ASTM standards and are therefore considered to be “non-medical masks”.

It is difficult to distinguish between “medical masks” and “non-medical disposable masks” by appearance since medical masks typically do not come with markings on the mask itself. To confirm if a mask is a “medical mask”, check the original box for specific wording: “ASTM” AND “Level 1”, “Level 2” or “Level 3”.

The specifications for medical masks are as below for typical Canada/US ASTM F2100:

Test Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Bacterial Filtration Efficiency, % ≥95 ≥98 ≥98
Differential Pressure mm H2O/cm2 (Pa/cm2) <5.0 <6.0 <6.0
Submicron particulate filtration efficiency at 0.1 micron, % ≥95 ≥98 ≥98
Splash Resistance/Synthetic Blood Resistance, mmHg 80 120 160
Flame Spread Class 1 Class 1 Class 1
Microbial Cleanliness (cfu/g) N/A N/A N/A

From: https://buyandsell.gc.ca/specifications-for-COVID-19-products#200

Use of Medical Masks – Fit

As with any face covering, proper use and fit to the face continues to be an important factor. When worn, a medical mask should:

  • completely cover the nose, mouth, and chin without gaping
  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head
  • fit comfortable to avoid frequently adjustment

Use of Medical Masks – Other Considerations

  • Refer to "COVID-19: Guidance for Using Medical Masks" on EHS website or "How to Wear a Face Mask" for additional general information on how to wear a medical mask
  • Medical masks are disposable and must be discarded following use
  • Do not use a medical mask that is ripped, visibly soiled or wet or if the ear loops are damaged.
  • Change your mask when it becomes damp
  • Do not re-use or share medical masks

Eye Protection

Goggles

Goggles provide effective barrier protection for the eyes against splashes, sprays, and respiratory droplets. The lens is typically made of plastic, commonly polycarbonate, with an adjustable elastic strap to allow snug fit around the eyes. Goggles are typically reusable.

Considerations for wearing goggles

  • Goggles should fit snugly over and around the eyes or prescription eyeglasses.
  • Goggles with anti-fog coating are preferred to help maintain clarity of vision.
  • Indirectly-vented or non-vented goggles provide better protection against splashes and sprays than directly-vented goggles.
  • The wearer should ensure that the goggles and the mask are compatible with each other so that there is no interference with the proper positioning of the goggles or with the fit or seal of the mask.
  • Goggles should be worn after putting on a mask and taken off before removing a mask.
  • Goggles must be cleaned and disinfected between uses in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Guidance on cleaning and disinfection of eye protection is available on the EHS COVID-19 Guidelines Website.

Face Shields

A face shield is personal protective equipment that has a transparent window or visor supported in front of the face, serving as a barrier to protect the wearer’s eyes and face. Face shields do not replace masks but can be worn in addition to a mask to provide eye protection.

Considerations for wearing a face shield

  • Safety goggles may be used in place of a face shield where eye protection is required
  • Face shields must cover the forehead, extend below the chin and cover the sides of the face
  • A face shield that is not CSA-approved must not be used if the job task requires Canadian Standards Association (CSA)-approved safety glasses or goggles
  • The material used for the visor (i.e., part of the face shield that covers the face) needs to be impenetrable by splashes, sprays, and spatter of body fluids.
  • Wearing the face shield must not create a health hazard (e.g., skin irritation, allergic reaction, etc.) or a safety hazard (e.g., poor visibility, sharp edges, etc.) of its own
  • The face shield must be adequately replaced, cleaned, and/or disinfected.

Re-useable face shields must be cleaned and disinfected between uses in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Guidance on cleaning and disinfection of eye protection is available on the EHS COVID-19 Guidelines Website.

Medical masks, goggles and face shields are available through the Physical Resources Stockroom.

Resources

Face Shields for Source Control of COVID-19. Public Health Ontario Focus On: Face Shields as Source Control (publichealthontario.ca) July 16, 2020.

COVID-19 (coronavirus) and workplace health and safety. Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. COVID-19 (coronavirus) and workplace health and safety | Ontario.ca

COVID-19 medical mask and respirators: Information for health professionals. Health Canada. COVID-19 medical masks and respirators: Information for health professionals - Canada.ca