How to use cloth face masks to combat coronavirus spread on construction jobsites

Marcia Gruver Doyle Pix
Updated Jun 2, 2020

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Now that face masks are much more than dust-inhalation preventive measures on the jobsite, OSHA is now offering guidance on how best to use cloth face coverings to combat coronavirus.

First, OSHA says that cloth face coverings are not PPE, nor are they an appropriate substitute for PPE such as N95 respirators or medical face masks required to protect the wearer. Basically, their primary use is to reduce the spread of the virus, if used in addition to social distancing.

Because cloth face coverings can easily become soiled, wet or otherwise contaminated in a construction environment, OSHA is urging contractors to provide readily available clean cloth face coverings or disposable face masks.

In addition to complying with any state or local requirements, cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit over the nose and mouth and fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
  • Are secured with ties or ear loops;
  • Include multiple layers of fabric;
  • Allow for breathing without restriction;
  • Can be laundered using the warmest appropriate water setting and machine dried daily after the shift, without damage or change to shape (a clean cloth face covering should be used each day);
  • Are not used if they become wet or contaminated;
  • Are replaced with clean replacements, provided by employer, as needed;
  • Are handled as little as possible to prevent transferring infectious materials to the cloth; and
  • Are not worn with or instead of respiratory protection when respirators are needed.