The CDC “does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus.” For certain workers, like health workers, providing facemasks may be appropriate or even required by applicable OSHA standards. OSHA requirements do apply if respirators (including dust and N95 masks) are provided. OSHA requires a written respiratory protection program, including training and fit-testing. A copy of Appendix D of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard must be provided. Whether the masks pose a hazard to employees must be verified. Dirty masks may inhibit breathing or exposure to other substances may make mask usage inappropriate.
Surgical masks are not considered “respirators,” and generally do not prevent a healthy person from inhaling droplet contaminants like coronavirus. Employers who require or permit employees to wear them do not have any compliance obligations under OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard. Surgical masks for people infected with coronavirus may help limit the spread of the illness to others.