Mask mandates are changing. Use our tips to avoid conflicts over masks and continue keeping your workers safe.

Masks have become part of everyday life in 2021 and are credited with reducing the spread of COVID-19 by up to 65%. You may find your employees and customers have renewed questions related to mask-wearing as Colorado vaccination levels rise and mask mandates shift. 

No matter which county you live in, you must still wear a mask in health care settings, public-facing government buildings, child care centers and indoor camps, and personal service centers such as hair salons or tattoo shops. But in other circumstances, guidelines have shifted: 

  1. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis lifted the comprehensive statewide mask mandate in many counties, leaving it up to city and county governments whether or not to maintain mask mandates.
  2. Other states near Colorado have lifted mask mandates entirely.
  3. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated people can remove masks if they are indoors with other vaccinated people.

The changes may lead to confusion for customers and employees who want to know if they still need to wear masks. Your priority is their safety. Often, you won’t know the vaccine status of customers your employees interact with, and masks may remain the best practice in many situations. Businesses must comply with local mask mandates, but they can also continue to require visitors to wear masks even without a city or county mandate. 

Please note: This guidance is intended to be help employees prepare for in-person interactions and offers support based on an employee's individual vaccination status. We do not suggest that an employer or employee inquire about vaccination status or disclose their vaccination status.

In someone’s house

Visiting someone’s house can be disconcerting, as your team doesn’t know the extent of that person’s commitment to hygiene and social distancing or if the person has been vaccinated. Whether your employee is there to fix a leaky pipe or act as a caregiver, he or she could risk their health if the client isn’t doing his or her part to prioritize worker safety.

Here is how to establish safe protocols when dealing with a client in his or her own home:

  • Try to avert potential problems by corresponding via text, email or phone before the appointment. 
  • Remotely, seek as much detail about the project as possible to lessen face-to-face interaction, but also use that communication as a chance to confirm your company’s adherence to best practices for mitigating coronavirus transmission. For example, if your employee is unvaccinated, assure the client that your employee will wear a face mask and request that the client does as well. 
  • If your employee has been vaccinated, inform the client and ask about their risk level for contracting COVID-19. The CDC now advises that people who have been vaccinated can visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness. If the client is high risk, a vaccinated employee should still wear a mask. 

On a commercial job site

There have been several recorded outbreaks of the coronavirus on Colorado construction sites, and a study found construction workers are more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in many other occupations. The use of masks can help mitigate the risk of spread, the study notes. “In-person essential work is a likely venue of transmission of coronavirus infection and must be addressed through strict enforcement of health orders in workplace settings,” states the study. 

Here are some tips for approaching mask-wearing at a job site:

  • On an indoor job site, mask-wearing remains a best practice
  • On an outdoor job site, mask-wearing is necessary if an employee is in a crowd or having prolonged, close, face-to-face interactions with someone else. Employees should continue to carry masks with them in case they are needed. 
  • Have supervisors frequently communicate the importance of mask-wearing and other preventive measures. These reminders can hold more weight when coming from the top, thereby promoting a safety culture and avoiding workers’ comp claims.
  • Remember that other workers might have just forgotten to cover their faces. If you encounter someone who isn’t following proper protocol to stem coronavirus transmission, ask him or her in a nonconfrontational, friendly manner to put on a mask.

In your own retail store, restaurant or office

We’ve all seen the videos and heard the stories of customers’ outright refusals to wear a mask and sometimes even threatening or assaulting employees who ask them to comply. There’s never a reason to sacrifice your workers’ safety, and some customers may even have a medical exemption, but commonsense appeals should work with most visitors.

Here are some tips for encouraging visitors to wear masks:

  • Provide visual cues that your business expects customers to wear masks. For example, post signs on the front door and make sure all employees wear masks.
  • Position a greeter at the door to help direct visitors and pleasantly remind them to don a mask. Thank them for complying and emphasize that everyone wearing a mask will help keep establishments open for all.
  • Offer nonmedical masks for customers who don’t bring one. 
  • ‍Call 3-1-1 in Denver or 877-462-2911 statewide if you or your team need additional help.

Visit Pinnacol’s blog for the latest tips on how to keep your employees healthy to avoid Colorado workers’ comp claims.

Sources:

https://covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine-data-dashboard

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200710/face-masks-reduce-covid-risk-by-65-percent

https://www.cpr.org/2021/04/13/colorado-mask-mandate-where-masks-are-not-required/

https://coloradosun.com/2021/04/14/johnson-johnson-vaccine-equity-efforts/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

https://www.denverpost.com/2021/04/05/colorado-mask-mandate-changes/

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/538431-grocery-store-worker-slapped-after-asking-customer-to-wear-mask-video

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2020/11/12/colorado-coronavirus-larimer-county-covid-19-deaths-cases-outbreaks/6247548002/

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2021/01/30/ucsf-covid-study-food-agriculture-construction-workers-death-risk/

https://coloradosun.com/2021/03/13/landon-grier-alaska-airlines-federal-charges/

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