Washington State Issues Workplace Mask Guidance

June 5, 2020

Most workers in Washington will be required to wear a mask or face covering at work under new coronavirus workplace safety and health requirements that take effect June 8.

With few exceptions, workers must wear some type of face covering or mask to help limit the spread of the coronavirus to those around them. Other higher-risk jobs may require respirators to protect the worker from infection by patients or clients.

Under the requirements, employers must provide the face coverings and masks to employees at no charge. Workers can bring their own face coverings and masks as well, as long as they meet requirements.

A new Department of Labor & Industries guidance document, “Which Mask for Which Task?,” describes various types of jobs based on the level of risk to workers, from negligible risk to extremely high. The publication spells out which face-covering, mask, or respirator is required for that task.

There are some limited exceptions to the workplace requirements for masks and face coverings. For example, someone working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a jobsite with no in-person interactions is not required to wear a face covering or mask.

Other exceptions include workers who are deaf or hard of hearing, or a person on the job who communicates with someone who relies on language cues such as facial markers and expression and mouth movements as a part of communication. A worker with a medical condition or disability that makes wearing a facial covering inappropriate is also exempt from the requirement.

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