Unison have had a few queries about PPE and face coverings in the workplace, particularly schools where local rules are being devised not only for what you must wear but also what you may and may not wear.
To be clear PPE will always be compulsorily and never optional and should be supplied by your employer along with full instructions as to how and when it should be used. A risk assessment should inform all of this.
A full up to date guide is maintained on the national UNISON website https://www.unison.org.uk/coronavirus-rights-work/personal-protective-equipment-coronavirus/
In the case of masks this will mainly apply in health care settings but UNISON’s position remains that staff in any educational setting should be allowed to wear suitable face coverings if they wish to do so. The Health and Safety Executive has stated that employers should support employees who wish to wear face coverings as added protection. It is important that face coverings are used in addition to other protective measures and that wearing them does not lead to the relaxation of social distancing and regular hand washing, etc. These practices should be adhered to at all times.
Face coverings may provide extra protection and some schools are now providing face coverings for employees especially where 2-metre social distancing cannot be applied. If a risk assessment identifies that face ‘masks’ are needed as PPE the employer must source and provide these and put in place training on its correct use.
Face coverings such as home made masks and these snazzy UNISON snoods are not PPE and they should never be used as substitute for proper protective equipment.