Reopening: Could we see face masks in the workplace?

Last updated: May 17th, 2022

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The Government’s recent Roadmap for Reopening sets out five phases and the key dates at which Irish businesses can reopen.

You may have already reopened your business and have begun to welcome employees back. Or, you may still be waiting for your phase. Whatever phase your business is in, you must implement mandatory new return to work protocols.

One preventative measure you may take onboard is that of PPE and in particular, face masks. While Government health advice recommends wearing a face mask on public transport and in other enclosed places with people, it’s not a mandatory workplace measure.

Still, the use of face masks in your workplace is a reopening measure you may want to implement.

Use of face masks in the workplace

The use of face masks in the workplace is not a mandatory measure. Still, it’s important that you assess your own workspace in line with measures set out in the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

For instance, employees may work closely together or share a small space from time to time, such as a meeting room. If you’re unable to adhere to and implement physical distancing rules, the use of face masks may be necessary.

Other preventative measures

The use of face masks is one of many preventative measures you could use in your workplace. The Return to Work Safely Protocol states that physical distancing and good hand/respiratory hygiene will also help reduce the person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.

The measures below are the most important ones to take to reduce the risk of infection.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing could pose the greatest challenge when it comes to returning to work. Formalities such as handshakes are forbidden. If office work is essential for your business, you will have to ensure there is a two-metre distance between employees.

If you’re unable to separate employees by two-metres, you might have to consider putting physical barriers in place. It would also be wise to hold meetings remotely and stagger shifts to meet physical distancing requirements.

Hand hygiene

Appropriate facilities will have to be made available to allow employees to practice proper hand hygiene. Employees will also need to be instructed on how to effectively wash their hands. Furthermore, posters will need to be displayed to remind employees of the practice.

Respiratory hygiene

Tissues and bins will have to be made available throughout the workplace. These will need to be emptied regularly and instruction on good respiratory etiquette must be provided to all employees.

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Nora Cashe

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Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

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Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

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David Begg

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David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

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