6 ways to improve employee face mask, PPE, and sanitization compliance during COVID-19

In this 4-minute read:

  • Create a PPE use policy
  • Communicate the PPE policy
  • Listen to and resolve employee concerns
  • Provide PPE supplies and masks for your employees
  • Lead by example
  • Hold employees accountable for compliance

COVID-19 has brought new challenges to everyday activities, especially in the workplace. With several cities, counties, and even states across the country enacting mandates for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facial masks, your business may need to require your employees—and possibly customers as well—to wear masks. 

These rules can sometimes be difficult to enforce, even within the walls of your own company, but there are ways that you can encourage and help your employees improve their PPE and sanitation compliance during COVID. 

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Create a clear company policy for PPE use and sanitization procedures

First, you need to set a clear policy in place. Depending on the size of your company and the industry you are in, your policies may vary a lot from the business next door. Keep local laws and guidelines in mind as you create this policy. Of course you should stay in full compliance with your local laws and ordinances.

As you are putting a policy in place, get employee feedback on what they think they policy should be or ask questions about how they feel in regard to COVID-19 and wearing PPE. Understanding how your employees feel about this situation can help you as you create the policy and they’ll also feel more involved and obligated to follow it. 

Be aware that the use of facial masks has become a hotly debated political topic, and some people may feel very strongly one way or the other. Be open to civil discussion and make sure everyone feels heard, but make it very clear what your company policy will be, and what the consequences for employees and your business can be if the policy is not adhered to.

You may also like: Small business guide for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis

Communicate the policy and follow up regularly

Once you have a clear policy in place for wearing PPE and keeping the facilities sanitized, you need to communicate this with your employees well. Don’t just send out an email and expect that everyone saw it and will comply. 

Hold a mandatory staff meeting to discuss the policy and educate your employees on its importance. Explain why the policy is in place and exactly what is expected of your staff and customers. Follow up after the meeting with a summary/bullet points of the key message, and send out regular reminders/refreshers as you see fit. Sometimes it takes people several repetitions to adopt new policies and habits

If you have managers or other leaders of employees, make sure they are following up with employees and are accountable for PPE policy training and reporting accurately.

Listen to and resolve employee concerns about face masks

Allow your staff to ask questions about your policy and help them understand what this means for them. Really listen to their concerns. Perhaps some people are claustrophobic, have unique respiratory or other physical needs, or have anxiety or worry about how wearing a mask all day will impact their productivity, health, or social interactions. 

Some concerns can be resolved by creating a better layout in the office for social distancing and only requiring a mask when social distancing can’t be achieved. Some people may be exempt from wearing masks for medical or other reasons, but they may not be able to function in their usual role in the business due to regulations. (Again, keep local laws and guidelines in mind as you discuss this.)

You may even need to adjust some employees’ roles or positions within the business based on these regulations and exceptions. Communicate clearly and openly and help employees feel heard and taken care of, and they’ll take care of you and your customers.

Provide PPE and sanitation items 

Not everyone has access to the masks, hand sanitizer, and other PPE that your company may require. In order to enforce compliance to this new policy, it’s best to provide these items to your employees, if at all possible.

Keep a box of disposable masks available at every entrance. Get hand sanitizer and other cleaners for employees to keep in their workspaces. 

Having these items readily available makes it easier for employees to be compliant with your required procedures, and eliminates the excuse of them not having them. 

Lead by example

The most important thing you can do as the business owner or manager is to lead by example. Make sure you are following the company policy to a T. If you aren’t sticking to the policy, you can’t expect your employees to follow it. 

Hold everyone accountable for proper PPE use and sanitization

Beyond leading by example, holding employees accountable who don’t follow your policies is going to motivate other employees to stick to the policy. Seeing you follow through and enforce this practice shows your employees and customers that you stand by this policy and emphasizes its importance. 

Encourage your employees to hold each other accountable as well. When you see someone without a mask, encourage them (in a kind way) to put one on. And don’t assume that they are blatantly disregarding the policy. If’s still a relatively new thing, and they could have forgotten their mask or perhaps they merely haven’t developed the habit yet. 

As you put your policy in place and talk to your employees about it, you can also remind them when appropriate of the consequences that will take place if they don’t follow it. Keep a warning system before taking any action, but stick to this plan. If someone continues to disregard your company’s safety guidelines, you may need to take disciplinary action. 

Additional resources to help your business during COVID-19

Here are some additional resources and guides to help you navigate the challenges that the pandemic has brought to businesses. 

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