General Lab Information

Use of Face Coverings

photo of woman donning facemask

In accordance with Executive Order 13991, “Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing” DOE issued a policy on January 21, 2021, requiring all individuals to wear a mask while in DOE buildings—including Brookhaven Lab. This includes all public and work areas within a building (e.g., garages, hallways, snack bars, cafeterias, elevators, and restrooms).

Face coverings do not include respirators or personal protective equipment (PPE). They are also not the kind of masks worn by health care workers (e.g., N-95). The Lab will provide a cloth face covering for you, or you may bring in your own.

Research has shown that wearing face coverings is one of the most effective personal actions to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) periodically updates its guidance on face coverings, based on data and experience obtained over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the Lab will update its face covering requirements as needed to align with DOE, CDC, and New York State guidance. The following guidance is effective as of March 2, 2021, and supersedes all previous guidance:

Face Covering Requirements

  • Face coverings must be worn at ALL times in ALL public spaces even when physically distant, including hallways, entryways, restrooms, labs, large indoor spaces (experimental areas, high-bay buildings, etc.), kitchens/lunchrooms, meeting/conference rooms, and other common areas.
  • Face coverings must be worn during all indoor in-person meetings, even if social distancing can be maintained.
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times in government vehicles, even by a solo occupant.
  • Face coverings are required to be worn in shared offices.
  • In cubicle areas, face coverings are required. Where possible, use of plexiglass barriers between cubicles are recommended as an additional countermeasure, but they do not negate the need to wear face coverings.
  • You may remove your face covering when you are alone in an office with floor-to-celling walls and the door is shut.
  • When outdoors, face coverings must be worn if social distancing of six feet or more cannot be constantly maintained. If you are closer than six feet to someone, even for a few seconds, you must wear a face covering.
  • Recommended options for dining include eating alone in an office, in your car, or in a meeting room. If you dine indoors, you can take your mask off when eating/drinking, but you must maintain a minimum six-foot distance from others at all times.
  • When a job hazard assessment determines that the use of face coverings would interfere with required PPE or increase the risks of the task, face coverings are not required as long as the risk of COVID is included in the assessment.
  • Individuals who have a medical or religious reason for not wearing face coverings may seek exemption from these requirements. Exemptions to the face covering policy will be considered in accordance with existing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance. Please speak with your supervisor.

Face Covering Construction and Proper Fit

  • Face coverings must be made of breathable, tightly woven fabric (such as cotton) (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source), must be two or three layers, and may have inner filter pockets.
  • They must completely cover both your mouth and nose and fit snugly against the sides of your face and under your chin.
  • They may not have an exhalation valve or vent as part of their construction.
  • Gaiters still can be worn but must also meet the double-layer guidance.
  • Bandanas still can be worn but must meet the double-layer guidance and be worn close to the face and under the chin (not “cowboy style”).
  • KN-95 and KF-94 masks with sealing surfaces that are not ridged are acceptable for use as face coverings.

Improve How Your Mask Protects You

  • Choose a mask with a nose wire.
  • Use a fitter or brace to improve the seal of your face covering.
  • Check that it fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask and feeling for air flow.
  • Add layers of material.
  • Use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric.
  • Wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask – but DO NOT combine two disposable masks.
  • The cloth mask should push the edges of the disposable mask against your face.
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of three-ply disposable masks.
    • Knot the ear loops of a three-ply face mask where they join the edge of the mask.
    • Fold and tuck the unneeded material under the edges.
    • Video instructions.

Respiratory Protection

As a reminder, face coverings are not respirators or PPE. They are also not the kind of masks worn by health care workers (e.g., N-95). OSHA guidance states that for low-exposure risk, such as workers whose jobs do not require contact with people known to have or suspected of having COVID-19, or do not have frequent close contact (i.e., within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with the general public or other workers, a multi-layer face covering provides adequate protection.

For employees who must work in medium, high, or very high exposure risk settings where it is not possible to maintain social distancing and the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering, and administrative) to do not reduce the risk of exposure, respiratory protection may be used. A hazard assessment of the work must be performed as required by the Respiratory Protection Program - Program Description. If a respirator is required for the work, follow the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment and Respirator Subject Area, including training, medical evaluation, and fit testing. Contact your Environment, Safety & Health Representative (ESHR) to assist with the hazard assessment.

This guidance does not replace the need for PPE in medical, radiological areas, or other settings, as determined by work planning and control.

Please remember to wash or replace your face covering regularly. Guidance on making, wearing, and washing face coverings can be found on the CDC website.

If you have any questions about these requirements, please contact your ESH Representative or the Safety & Health Services Division at Ext. 4056.