Face coverings – yes or no?

A view for businesses on how to interpret the Government’s latest announcement.

Shopper wearing face mask

While we’ve all become very used to images and footage of people across Europe and the United States donning a wide array of ‘facial coverings’, it’s fair to say that the practice is still to catch on properly in the United Kingdom.

Yes, there was the guidance that masks should be worn on public transport, back in June, and then, on Monday 13 July, the announcement that it’s to be compulsory to wear face masks in shops from 24 July, in England. Scotland adopted them on 10 July and Wales’ ‘powers that be’ remain unconvinced. 

And actually, this regional disparity among the political and medical leaders guiding our actions in the fight against COVID-19 is perhaps just one reason why mask adoption is lagging behind ‘over here’. That, plus a plethora of conflicting opinions and scientific evidence – with pundits on the one hand saying masks offer no protection and those on the other taking more of a ‘why not?’ approach, suggesting that, if for no other reason than to increase confidence, mask-wearing is worth a shot.

And then there is the very fact that we’re British; reticent by nature, and, for many, it just doesn’t feel polite to go round with parts of our faces hidden.

So, if you’re in business, if you’re among the retail outlets whose job it will be to enforce this new face mask rule, how should you respond? And other organisations, for that matter: should you wait for laws to be passed to decide whether you need to add this further level of protection, or is it actually a good step to take now, for a myriad of very sensible reasons?

As an experienced hygiene firm, which has been helping organisations battle all manner of different infectious illnesses for decades, we think it’s a no-brainer: you should do everything in your power to protect your staff and customers and, through them, the reputation and future of your business. And masks are one of the changes you can make that is well within your power.

How should you go about it?

As with all things COVID, there are a range of options out there on the market, with pop-up manufacturers seeking to capitalise on unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) items like masks. And, naturally, some of their products are better than others. You have four basic options when it comes to masks: single-use, disposable ones designed for use by people at large; medical-grade varieties for people working in health and care-type settings, which can be reused if stored carefully for up to six hours; clear plastic varieties for situations where the people wearers are engaging with need to be able to see their full faces – for example the deaf who need to be able to lip read, and washable fabric masks which can be used over and over again. And then there is the option of visors to use either individually or, ideally, in conjunction with one of the mask varieties, in some settings.

The key when sourcing them for your business is to ensure that they suit the requirement you have, and that they are certified as effective, as all of our recommended lines are. As a basic rule of thumb, masks should be ‘triple-layer’ to be effective against droplets, should cover the nose and mouth and – in the case of the disposable type – should tighten to fit individual faces via a wire on the bridge of the nose. You’ll find examples in our most recent product brochure and can contact us for more information about our full range and what might work best for you.

just as important as sourcing the masks, is having the confidence to  ensure your employees and customers use them consistently. Again, it perhaps doesn’t feel very ‘British’ to boss people around that work for you or buy your products and services. But consider this, what are the consequences of not doing so? Effectively, risking the health of the people you are responsible for, and having your business out of action again as a result.

Mask etiquette for retail and other businesses

So, what’s the new, recommended approach retailers should adopt around the wearing of masks? This is what we would advise:

  1. Place signs at the entrance to your premises and prominently inside, notifying customers that, to enter, they must wear a mask. Use this as a positive marketing statement about your status as a responsible business: letting people know that you are a ‘count us in’ business when it comes to mask-wearing.
  2. Supply spares, close to your door, for anyone who has forgotten to bring their own. Yes, this might cost you a few quid, but we can guarantee that your reputation as a responsible business will sky-rocket and give everyone you deal with much greater confidence in you. Have a member of staff watching the entrance, too, and be bold about insisting that masks must be worn. Zero tolerance is the only way. You should also offer an enclosed bin near the door, clearly signed, for people to dispose of their masks as they leave – we don’t want to encourage litter, after all, and discarded masks can also spread dangerous germs.
  3. On the subject of reputation, why not take the opportunity to create even more of a feel-good factor around mask-wearing, by providing a charity box where customers can make a discretionary donation in return for a mask supplied by you?
  4. The masks you need to provide are the ‘civilian’ variety and you’ll find more detail about these in our brochure.
  5. Make this one of a range of robust measures you adopt as, whatever your opinion on the science, there’s no doubt facial coverings are going to be most effective when used in conjunction with hand sanitiser and regular handwashing. Consider, also, putting notices up around your shop, advising people only to touch what they plan to buy. Every step you take on this is a positive one in the right direction. And don’t wait for the Government to say you must, this is one instance where gut feel is best when formulating a cast-iron hygiene strategy. If it’s on your mind: implement it, being ahead of the curve can only be a good thing! Our free guide contains lots more must-read tips for any business looking to function in a COVID-secure way.

A last word from the heart

So, we hope this article has given you some positive food for thought. As a business, if we have an opinion we are usually passionate about it, and there is nothing more worthy of such strong feeling at the moment than getting this right. 

Janette Elliott, our Finance and Marketing Director, summed up how we feel about this subject: “Setting aside our role as owners of whatever kind of business, fundamentally, if we care about humanity, about our fellow businesspeople, and about our society and economy making it back up off their knees and onto their feet – in the shadow of a very real prospect of a winter coronavirus resurgence – we have no choice but to do everything we can to prevent this pandemic taking hold again, hold up our hands and say ‘I’m in, I’m taking my share of responsibility for making this right’.

“As businesses – shops included – we are the gateways to so many products, services and interactions between people. If we don’t act as responsible gatekeepers we might as well just say ‘OK, come in, do what you want, don’t follow the rules, infect us, our customers and those we all care about, and that’s fine’.”


If this blog has got you thinking and you could do with some no-obligation, expert advice on what’s going to work best for you and your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing or calling us on 01482 327580.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive our latest news, advice and insights

Have you read...