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Face Coverings and Masks

Note: Please note that all information provided is general, and is an aggregation of and attributed to the sources included below. Use your own judgment and regulatory guidance to make decisions around PPE usage in the workplace.

Last Updated: 9/14/20

What are standards for face coverings?

As per CDC guidance, while there is no single standard for non-medical face coverings, they should:

  • fit over the nose and mouth and fit snugly but comfortably against the face;
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric, if made of cloth
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • if not disposable, be able to be laundered using hot water in a washing machine after each full day of use without damage or change to shape
  • not include any one-way valves in order to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others

When should you use a cloth vs. disposable surgical mask?

Cloth masks and disposable surgical masks provide only a small degree of protection against COVID-19, but as the CDC notes, they are important for preventing transmission and are the right choice for most businesses.

As long as sufficient disposable surgical masks are available for medical use, the choice between a cloth mask and a surgical mask is up to an individual business or employee. You may wish to use both in your workplace – for example, each employee could be provided with 5 cloth face masks, and an additional supply of surgical masks could be available on site in the event that an employee forgets their reusable mask, their mask becomes soiled, or a customer needs a mask.

How many cloth masks should I give each employee?

Reusable face coverings should be laundered after each use, while disposable surgical masks should be thrown away after each use.

Let’s assume employees are not able to wash masks more than once a week. Thus, an employee needs at least one mask per shift that week (which might be more if masks get spoiled during a shift!). Therefore, if an employee is working one shift each weekday, then that employee should be provided with at least five reusable cloth masks, or five new disposable masks per week.

If work activity is likely to cause the covering to become wet, soiled, or otherwise contaminated during the work shift, as per CDC guidance, employers should provide clean replacement masks.

When should you use a N95 or KN95 respirators?

N95 and KN95 respirator masks provide more protection than cloth masks or surgical masks, but worldwide supply is limited and they are currently only recommended for use by healthcare personnel and others who need protection from both airborne and fluid hazards (e.g., splashes and sprays in meat and poultry processing facilities). If used, respirators should be fit tested and may also require the implementation of a respiratory program under OSHA.

View Other PPE Guidance and FAQs

Detailed Sources

All guidance compiled from these public sources as of October 2, 2020. Please confirm guidance at the links provided below.

This PPE Information is intended to be used as a general guide for businesses. The PPE needs of your particular business and employees may vary significantly and each business is responsible for making its own decisions about those needs. All users should consult the links provided herein for the latest official health information, as the PPE Planning Tool summaries may not accurately reflect the current content of those official health links or the latest updates thereto. The State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (collectively, the “State”) is not responsible for the performance or accuracy of the PPE Planning Tool. By using the PPE Planning Tool, the user does hereby release any and all claims, causes of action, and demands against the State that are derived from its use.