Face covering frequently asked questions

From 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July, Government directions state that you must wear a face covering whenever you leave your home unless an exception applies.

This means that face coverings are now mandatory for all Monash Health employees at work.

There are different requirements depending on the nature of your role.

Clinical employees

If you are a clinical employee or entering a clinical area where you cannot physically distance from others, wearing a surgical mask remains mandatory. You can read more about the use of surgical masks here.

Disposable face shields will also be progressively rolled out across the organisation, firstly to areas identified as high-risk and then gradually across all patient-facing clinical areas.

Non-clinical employees

If you don’t work in a clinical area and don’t interact with patients, you can use your own cloth masks or face coverings at work. For people in this group, we will initially provide up to three masks per day to give you time to obtain your own supplies.

A face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth.

A face mask is the recommended face covering and can be any paper or textile covering designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to protect the wearer. It does not have to be medical grade, and you can make your own. There are instructions on how to make a mask on the DHHS website – how to make your own mask.

Why do I have to wear a face covering?

Wearing a face covering helps keep you and others safe. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread from close contact with a person with the virus. Face coverings are helpful to stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) and is contagious, but feels well.

The best way to protect other people against coronavirus (COVID-19) is staying home when you feel unwell, keeping 1.5 metres apart, hand hygiene, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or tissue. Face coverings add an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and others, but must be used in conjunction with standard precautions.

When do I have to wear a face covering?

Unless an exception applies, if you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire you must wear a face covering when you leave your home for one of the four reasons: shopping for food and supplies, recreation or exercise, medical care and caregiving, and study or work – if you can’t do it from home. This includes travelling on public transport, or in a car with people outside your household.

You must wear a face covering while at work unless eating a meal or in a room by yourself.

If you have concerns about wearing a face covering or mask, please speak to to your manager.

Do I have to wear a face covering if I have asthma?

People who have a medical condition, including problems with their breathing, do not have to wear face coverings.

If you are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition you will need to provide evidence from your doctor to this effect. You will then need to work with your manager to determine the most appropriate action for you.

Do people with a disability have to wear a face covering?

Yes, people with a disability must wear a face covering unless it is impractical or unsafe to do so for medical, communication or other individual risk factors.

I find masks uncomfortable, do I have to wear one?

Wearing a mask is new for almost all of us and will take some time to adjust to. Most people adjust within a relatively short time and get used to the feeling relatively quickly.

I have a medical problem and can’t wear a mask, what do I do?

If you are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition you will need to provide evidence from your doctor to this effect. You will then need to work with your manager to determine the most appropriate action for you.

 

Work

When can I remove my mask?

Masks must be worn at all times with the following exceptions;

  • When eating/drinking at meal breaks
  • If working in a single person office, alone with the door closed

When you remove your face covering, ensure you are not near other people, and follow this advice:

  • Perform hand hygiene
  • ‘Don’t touch the front of the mask or your face.
  • Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom one first, then the top one.
  • Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering. Single-use surgical masks should be disposed of responsibly.
  • Perform hand hygiene again

Only a short break should be required.

Do I need to wear a face covering at work or my desk even if I am 1.5 metres away from others?

Yes, unless an exception applies. If you work in an enclosed office on your own, you don’t have to wear a face covering or mask while at your desk. If someone enters your space and when you leave it, you must wear one.

Do I need to wear a face covering at home if I work from home and it is currently considered my workplace?

If you are working from home, you do not need to wear a face covering, unless you are caring for someone at home who has coronavirus (COVID-19).

Do residents of aged care facilities and other group homes need to wear face coverings at all times?

The requirement to wear face coverings applies when people are outside of their home for one of the four reasons. It does not apply to aged care residents or other group homes residents while they are in the facility. However, it does apply to the facility’s employees and visitors inside the facility and when a resident leaves the facility for one of the four reasons.

When visiting clients in their home, do the clients need to wear a face covering?

The requirement to wear face coverings applies when people are outside of their home for one of the four reasons. It does not apply to residents at home. However, it does apply to Monash Health employees visiting clients in their home.

Will it still be optional to wear face coverings in non-clinical spaces after the new rules kick in?

Face coverings are mandatory for all employees from 11.59pm 22 July 2020, this applies to non-clinical spaces also.

If I wear a surgical mask when I leave home, do I need to change to a surgical mask provided by Monash Health at work?

If you work in a clinical or patient-facing area, you must wear a Monash Health provided surgical mask while at work.

If you work in a non-clinical area you may continue to wear your own mask or face covering.

Will we need to provide our own masks or face coverings?

If you work in a clinical area, Monash Health will provide masks or appropriate PPE.

If you work in a non-clinical area, you will need to provide your own masks or face covering, as per Government directions. Monash Health will initially provide up to three masks per day to give you time to obtain your own supplies. 

Can we remove face coverings when talking over the phone?

Not if you are working in a shared workspace, unless an exception applies.

If you work in an enclosed office on your own, you don’t have to wear a mask while at your desk. If someone enters your space and when you leave it, you need to wear a mask.

Do we have to wear a mask when walking to work from our car?

Yes. In line with the directions from the DHHS and the Victorian government, masks must be worn when walking.

Do we need to wear them in the break rooms?

Yes.  Unless you are eating or drinking, you should be wearing your mask.

Where should we store our personal mask when at work?

In a zip-lock, plastic bag is the best option, kept in your bag or locker. ​Use separate bags for your clean and used masks.

What do I do with my used DISPOSABLE mask?

When ready to change your disposable mask, place these into normal waste bins.

We recommend you carry a zip-lock plastic bag to secure your used disposable mask in case a bin is not immediately available.

Used disposable masks must not be dropped on the ground or left on any other surface as this poses an infection risk.

What do I do with my used CLOTH or NON-DISPOSABLE mask?

When ready to change your cloth or non-disposable mask. Place reusable masks into a zip-lock or paper bag and take home for washing and reuse. You should come to work prepared with enough zip lock bags for this purpose.

Can you provide bins to dispose of surgical masks?

We are looking into this as an option; however, our cleaning team will continue to follow standard procedures to ensure existing bins are not overflowing or a safety risk.

Will Monash Health supply masks?

An initial supply of masks of up to 3 per day will be provided for Monash Health employees for a period of up to 2 weeks, to provide time for obtaining own supply (supplies will be ongoing for patient-facing and clinical areas).

Can I wear a visor instead of a mask?

You are required to wear a mask within Monash Health facilities. Some areas are now also using shields as well as masks. At this point in time a shield alone is not sufficient for use in the hospital setting.

 

Cloth masks

If it’s a reusable face covering how often do I have to wash it?

A cloth face covering can be washed and reused. It should be washed after each time you use it and before you put it back on. It is a good idea to have at least two, so you always have a clean one available.

Keep a paper bag or zip-lock bag with you to carry fresh face coverings and keep them clean.

Can I make my own face mask?

Yes, you can make your own mask; there are instructions on how to make your own mask on the DHHS website.

How do I make it?

There are instructions on how to make your own mask here.

Does it have to have three layers?

While the Chief Health Officer recommends a mask made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics to ensure adequate protection, any face mask or covering is better than none.

Can I wear a disposable mask?

Yes. You should, however, dispose of it responsibly in the rubbish bin after one use.

Can it just be a scarf, or does it have to be a certain kind of face covering?

While the Chief Health Officer recommends a cloth mask made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics to ensure adequate protection, any face mask or covering is better than none. This includes a scarf or bandana.

How do I clean my cloth mask?

Cloth masks must be washed between wears, even if your mask does not appear soiled. See the DHHS guidance here.

 

Wearing a mask

How do I stop face covering fogging up my glasses?

Make sure the face covering is fitted and pinched on your nose if possible. Put your glasses on after the face covering. Wash your glasses with detergent and water to create a film to prevent fogging. Or put a folded tissue across the bridge of your nose, then put your face covering on and your glasses on top.

Do I need to wear a face covering when I am driving?

If you are driving alone or only travelling with people from your household, you do not need to wear a face covering.  You should put your face covering on before you leave your vehicle or if you wind down the window to talk to someone.

If you are driving with anyone you don’t live with then you must wear a face covering, this includes driving with colleagues to work if they do not live in the same household as you.

You must wear a face covering if you are a passenger or driver in a commercial vehicle such as a taxi or Uber.

Can I take my face covering off if someone I am communicating with can’t hear me?

You can remove your face covering if you are communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

You should maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres and if you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your elbow.

Can I take my face covering off when eating or drinking?

Yes. You can take your face covering off when eating or drinking. You should maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres and practise good hygiene. Replace your face covering as soon as possible after eating and drinking.

Eating and drinking should not be used as an excuse not to wear a face covering. You must use common sense and wear a face covering at all times possible.

 

Supporting people with a disability

Does a person with a disability have to wear a face covering?

Like all Victorians living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, people with a disability are required to wear a face covering whenever leaving their home.

However, the Victorian Government has made exceptions when there is a risk to a person’s health and safety, including; medical conditions, communication needs, and other individual risk factors related to disability, mental health or hearing impairment.

  • Example; a person with autism may not be able to tolerate wearing a mask, as the mask causes distress.
  • Example; a person with an intellectual disability may not understand the need to wear a mask and therefore refuse to wear a mask.
  • Example; a person who produces excessive saliva or nasal mucus, may find wearing a mask too uncomfortable to comply.

Details of exceptions can be found at www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

When does a person with a disability need to wear a face covering?

A person is required to wear a mask when leaving their home for one of the four reasons; shopping for food and supplies, care and caregiving, exercise, and study and work, if they can’t do it from home. People living within disability residential facilities do not need to wear a mask when they are inside their home.

Does a person supporting a person with a disability need to wear a mask?

The Victorian Government advises any individual supporting a person with a disability, should wear a mask, unless it is unsafe to do so.

Disability service providers may have their own policies relating to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supporting consumers. Employees should seek clarification with their employers. The Commonwealth Department of Health provides a guide to personal protective equipment for disability care providers.

Example; a person with autism may not tolerate their support person wearing a mask and may try to physically remove it from their support person’s face. This poses a physical safety risk to the support person, so consideration should be made how to most appropriately support the person with autism.

Things you can do to support a person with a disability to wear a face covering

Educating a person with a disability can be done in many ways.  Keep the information simple such as the use of pictures and suit it to the person’s individual learning needs. This may need to be discussed or presented several times. There are several ways to support a person to wear a face covering, including, but not limited to:

  • social stories on how to wear a face covering and why
  • pictures and posters
  • using cloth masks that are customised to something the person likes, e.g. colours, patterns
  • modelling how to put on and take off a mask
  • desensitising, e.g. start with asking the person to just hold a mask

Disability organisations and the Victorian Government have information and resources on their websites.

What if the person with a disability is not able to wear a face covering?

It is important to remind the person of maintaining a social distance (1.5m) wherever possible, practice good personal hygiene including hand washing or using hand sanitiser and if they can, encourage the person to tell you if they are feeling unwell. If they are not able to follow these guidelines, support them in doing so.

Where can I find out more?

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