Royal Mail Group Introduction of New Branded Reusable/Washable Cotton Face Masks:
The wearing of face coverings/masks has shown to protect the wearer and those around them from Coronavirus/Covid-19 transmission and infection and against the backdrop of a rapidly increasing infection rate and the number of virus deaths. That is why Royal Mail Group made it mandatory for all employees to wear face coverings when working indoors unless an individual has a legitimate exception. A joint statement supporting the mandatory introduction of face coverings/masks was signed by Royal Mail Group and the CWU on 9 November 2020. Since that time the Health, Safety and Environment Department has continually pressed Royal Mail Group to improve the level of compliance with the mandatory standard and to improve the quality of face masks.
Government Chief Medical Officers and Scientists along with the National Health Service (NHS), Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE), Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Doctors in Unite (the UK’s oldest medical trade union representing junior doctors, general practitioners and hospital consultants) amongst many, many others strongly support and recommend the use of face masks, concluding that face masks play a valuable role in reducing transmission of Coronavirus in the UK community.
Face coverings are mandatory across the UK in the following:
- Post Offices
- Royal Mail Customer Service Points (which are classed as shops – staff and customers must wear face masks/coverings)
- public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)
- taxis and private hire vehicles
- transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
- shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
- shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
- auction houses
- premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes), except when seated at a table to eat or drink
- post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
- estate and lettings agents
- premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
- premises providing veterinary services
- visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
- libraries and public reading rooms
- places of worship
- funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)
- community centres, youth centres and social clubs
- exhibition halls and conference centres
- public areas in hotels and hostels
- storage and distribution facilities
People are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until they leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it.
Royal Mail staff should also wear face masks where they meet people in other indoor settings during their duty e.g., business receptions, blocks of flats etc.
The New Branded Reusable/Washable Cotton Face Masks
The new masks comply with UK’s General Products Safety Regulations 2005 and they have certification for suitability of the fabric for wearing over the nose and mouth. As they have not been supplied as medical grade masks the manufacturer has used their standard non-medical mask description on some of the documentation.
Before deciding which face coverings to purchase, Royal Mail Group considered 12 types of masks from different suppliers which were tested for comfort, fit, breathability, appearance and protection with a range of different sized users, both men and women and people with and without glasses. The Paragon face coverings were the best face covering tested, giving a good fit to a wide range of users with high levels of comfort.
The masks have 3 layers of fabric as recommended by government. Two layers are tightly knitted cotton and a further layer contains SilvaDur antimicrobial treatment. Two or three layers of tightly woven fabric have been shown in studies to be highly effective at filtering out the virus, equivalent to surgical mask standards. When wearing the masks, it is easy to feel the resistance to air flow through them when compared to many other face coverings.
A key consideration for Royal Mail in the selection of the suppliers was also their ability to provide the required level of assurance that they meet the standards expected of a supplier to Royal Mail including the Responsible Procurement Code and the Modern Slavery Act.
The masks are being delivered to the managers of each operational Unit based on the staff in post numbers and will be distributed on the basis of 5 masks per employee. Additional supplies are available which Unit managers can order. See image of the new mask attached.
The new branded, reusable, face coverings will also reduce the impact on the environment.
Putting on and Removing The Mask
The mask is put on and removed by holding it by the elastic from behind, ensuring that hands are clean before touching the mask. When not being worn the mask should be stored in personal possessions or in a polythene bag and not left on surfaces where it could be contaminated. Wearers should avoid touching the mask whilst wearing it.
Changing The Mask
It is important to change the mask and wear a clean mask each day. Members should also change the mask during the day if it becomes wet.
Washing The Masks
The washing requirements for the reusable face coverings are as follows; The face coverings can be hand washed or washed in a washing machine at 60 degrees (not 30 degrees as per packaging) for up to 30 washes. They should not be dry cleaned. Fabric conditioner should not be used when washing the masks as this can leave residue on the materials which should not be breathed in.
Ordering Extra Royal Mail Reusable Face Masks
Units can order extra face coverings from the web site: https://store.paragon-cc.co.uk/rm-stationery. There is a limited supply of additional face coverings available and they will be prioritised to operational units. Any non-operational employees can request a face covering via the above link (subject to availability) or at the unit they are attending if they are unable to work from home.
The original ‘disposable’ masks will still be available to order for those employees who prefer to wear them and for Agency/Casual employees.
“Wash Hands-Cover Face-Make Space”
It’s important to remember – face coverings alone will not completely stop people from contracting the virus. They can be an effective tool in preventing the spread of the virus in the workplace and help reduce the risk of infection. Face Masks must not lead to a relaxed attitude to hand washing/sanitising, social distancing, keeping the workplace clean and ventilation. Face coverings play a valuable role in reducing transmission of Coronavirus.
Royal Mail Group fully recognises that some employees are unable to wear face coverings for medical or psychological reasons which covers a wide range of illnesses, impairments or disabilities. Managers must be mindful and respectful of such circumstances and will work jointly with Union Representatives to ensure these employees are not penalised or otherwise discriminated against based on exemption. Only those employees with a legitimate reason for exemption will not need to wear a face covering whilst working indoors. Due to the high infection rate a new revised process of verifying exemption has been put in place following RMG discussions with the CWU which protects the interests, safety and wellbeing of the workforce as a whole. The new process and an agreed joint communication will be reported in a separate LTB.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer