What about face masks at work?
As of today, new rules apply as a result of an update to the Ministerial Decree of 28 October 2020 on urgent measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus (MD 28 October 2020). One of the relaxations concerns the wearing of the face mask. These will be less common in the street scene, but what about face masks at work?
In some companies, workers will still be required to wear a face mask, e.g., in indoor areas of public transport, stations, airports and organised collective transport (like vans with construction workers) or care institutions or medical and non-medical contact professions. This is explicitly stated in the MD 28 October 2020.
For other employers, the MD provides nothing about the use of face masks.
Of course, employers should take the necessary preventive measures to maximize their employees’ protection against COVID-19.
The reference remains the Generic Guide for combatting the spread of COVID-19 at work, of which the seventh edition was published yesterday (see (only available in Dutch or French). That edition includes new provisions on face masks. These provisions apply as of today.
Face masks are no longer required as an additional measure when social distancing cannot be organised, but they remain strongly recommended according to the Generic Guide.
Moreover, for the use of face masks should be taken into account, the general measures issued by the federal, regional or local authorities. For example, as a result of the Consultation Committee of 17 September 2021, Flanders has communicated that face masks are no longer mandatory, while in Brussels and Wallonia they remain mandatory. The employer should consider this when establishing the measures resulting from the risk analysis.
Face masks are no longer mandatory at work, even if social distancing cannot be guaranteed, but they remain strongly recommended.
Employers can continue to keep face masks at work as a preventive health measure. We recommend employers to discuss this topic with their external and internal health services, to update their risk analysis in that area if necessary, and to consult with the health and safety committee. The risk analysis should take into account the general recommendations of the use of face masks within a certain region (currently not mandatory in Flanders, but still in Brussels and in Wallonia).