OSHA Affirms Face Coverings are Not Considered PPE

Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a determination that face coverings serve as both source control AND provide personal protection to the wearer. Since the announcement that face coverings can actually protect the wearer this presented a question as to how OSHA would interpret face coverings for employees.

In response, OSHA has updated its FAQs based on a recent CDC determination on cloth face coverings. See below and here:https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/covid-19-faq.html#cloth-face-coverings

Are employers required to provide cloth face coverings to workers?

Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. As such, OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide them.

  • The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, requires each employer to furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Control measures may include a combination of engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices like social distancing, and PPE.
  • However, employers may choose to ensure that cloth face coverings are worn as a feasible means of abatement in a control plan designed to address hazards from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Employers may choose to use cloth face coverings as a means of source control, such as because of transmission risk that cannot be controlled through engineering or administrative controls, including social distancing.

This is an example of a policy decision that could be changed under an incoming Biden administration, but nothing is definitive at this point. NALP will continue to monitor all COVID-19 related Federal and State safety requirements.