Occupational Safety & Health Reporter℠

Wearing of Cloth Masks Doesn’t Endanger Workers, OSHA Says

July 31, 2020, 3:46 PM

Workers wearing cloth masks to prevent coronavirus infections aren’t endangered by low oxygen levels or carbon dioxide poisoning, OSHA said in new guidance.

“Like medical masks, cloth face coverings are loose-fitting with no seal and are designed to be breathed through,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a Friday update to its frequently asked Covid-19 questions and answers.

“Medical masks, including surgical masks, are routinely worn by health-care workers throughout the day as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE) ensembles and do not compromise their oxygen levels or cause carbon dioxide buildup,” OSHA added.

The face mask posting comes after the regulator had taken down answers to six frequently asked questions, or FAQs, citing a need to clarify those responses for its stakeholder community.

The agency also said wearing masks doesn’t violate federal rules protecting workers from dangerous gas levels or other airborne contaminates.

An increasing number of states, local governments, and employers are mandating that workers—especially those indoors and within six feet of co-workers or customers— wear masks covering the mouth and nose to avoid airborne spread of the coronavirus.

The orders have met resistance from people claiming the masks collect dangerous levels of carbon dioxide or restrict their oxygen intake.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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