Information on wearing face coverings at work

Key points

  • From 11:59pm on Wednesday 22 July people who in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four reasons: shopping for food and supplies, medical care and caregiving, exercise, medical care and caregiving, and study or work – if you can’t do it from home.
  • This includes when you are travelling for work purposes, or in cars with people other than those who live in household.
  • There are a number of lawful reasons for not wearing a face covering including if you have a medical condition that inhibits wearing a mask, are communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, while doing strenuous exercise or if you can’t meet occupational health and safety guidelines related to your work while wearing a face covering.
  • You must carry a face covering with you when leaving home for one of the four reasons, even if you don’t need to wear it while undertaking your current activity, for example you can take your face covering off to eat. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face covering at all times you don’t need to carry it with you.
  • People who live outside of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are advised to wear a face covering when they leave home and are not able to keep 1.5 metres away from other people, for example, when shopping.
Your questions answered

What does wearing a face covering mean?

If you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, you must wear a face covering when you leave home. This means either a face mask or face shield.  A face covering needs to be worn covering both your nose and mouth.

  • A face mask is recommended, and includes any paper or textile covering designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to protect the wearer. It does not have to be medical grade and you can make your own. There are instructions on how to make a mask on the Department’s website - How to make a mask.
  • If a face mask is not available other forms of face covering may be used such as a scarf or bandana.
  • A face shield means any film made from plastic or other transparent material designed or made to be worn like a visor, covering from the wearer’s forehead to below the chin area and wrapping around the sides of the wearer’s face, to provide the wearer protection.

Why do people in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire have to wear a face covering?

New restrictions are being introduced that require people living in the Melbourne metropolitan area or the Mitchell Shire to wear a face covering when they leave home. This change follows a recent concerning increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in these areas. Wearing a face covering provides an additional physical barrier and helps to reduce community transmission.

Wearing a face covering helps keep you and others safe. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread from close contact with an infected person. and can be spread when a person coughs or sneezes. Face coverings help stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well.

The best way to protect other people against coronavirus (COVID-19) is keeping 1.5 metres apart, wash your hands often, and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue. Face coverings add an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones.

For more information visit Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire – Face covering

Do people outside of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire have to wear a face covering?

It is recommended that you wear a face covering outside metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire if you leave your home and are not able to keep 1.5 metres away from other people, such as when you are shopping.

You must wear a face covering if you need into go to metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire for one of these reasons: shopping for food and supplies, medical care and caregiving, and study or work – if you can’t do it from home.

For more information visit Rest of Victoria – Face covering

I live in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire - do I have to wear a face covering at work?

If you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, you must wear a face covering unless you meet one of the reasons for exemptions such as a medical condition.

For more information visit Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire – Face covering

Lawful excuses or exceptions for not wearing a face covering

A face covering is not required in the following circumstances:

  • Infants and children under the age of 12 years.
  • A person who is affected by a relevant medical condition - including problems with their breathing, a serious skin condition on the face, a disability or a mental health condition. This also includes persons who are communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to that person’s health and safety related to their work, as determined through OH&S guidelines.
  • Persons whose professions require clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth. This includes teaching or live broadcasting.
  • Professional sportspeople when training or competing.
  • When the individual is doing any exercise or physical activity where they are out of breath or puffing; examples include jogging or running but not walking. You must have a face covering on you and wear it when you finish exercising.
  • When directed by police to remove the face covering to ascertain identity.
  • The person is travelling in a vehicle by themselves or with other members of their household.
  • When consuming food, drink, medication or when smoking/vaping.
  • When undergoing dental treatment or other medical care to the extent that the procedure requires that no face covering may be worn.
  • When required to remove a face covering to ascertain identity, for example at a bank or bottle shop.
  • During emergencies.

You must carry a face covering with you when leaving home for one of the four reasons, even if you don’t need to wear it while undertaking your current activity, for example you can take your face covering off to eat. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face covering at all times you don’t need to carry it with you.

Do I have to wear a face covering if I have asthma?

People who have a medical condition, including problems with their breathing, do not have to wear face coverings.

Do employees need to wear a face covering when doing strenuous tasks?

If someone is doing a physically strenuous task, where they are out of breath or puffing then they don’t need to wear a face covering while undertaking that activity. However once they have completed that task they should put their face covering back on.

Can I take off my face covering if I find it uncomfortable whilst working?

It is important that you wear your face covering when at work, but some people may require short breaks from wearing their face covering. When you do so, ensure you are not near other people, and follow this advice when removing your face covering. Only a short break should be required.

I work in a call centre, do I need to wear a face covering when I am speaking with people on the telephone?

Yes. Due to the number of people who work closely together in call centres, these workplaces represent a risk for transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Do construction workers have to wear a face covering?

Yes. Construction workers will have to wear a face covering unless they meet any of the criteria for exception such as a medical condition or if wearing a face covering creates a risk to the person related to their work, as determined through OH&S guidelines.

What about the barista at my coffee shop?

Yes. Within metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell, baristas will have to wear a face covering unless they meet any of the criteria for lawful excuses such as a medical condition.

What about the supermarket employee on the checkout?

Yes. Within metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell, supermarket employees will have to wear a face covering unless they meet any of the criteria for lawful excuses such as a medical condition.

As an employer, do I need to require my staff to wear masks?

Yes, you are required to take reasonable steps to ensure your employees wear face coverings if they are working, unless an exception applies.

Can I refuse someone access to my premises if they are not wearing a face covering?

Yes. You can ask someone not to enter your premises if they are not wearing a face covering unless they have a lawful reason not to wear a face covering. However, it is not the owner of the premises responsibility to enforce the face covering rules. It is the responsibility of the individual entering your premises to do the right thing and wear a face covering.

Can I be refused entry or service if I am not wearing a face covering?

Yes, unless you have a lawful exception for not wearing a mask. For their own and other customer’s safety, a business owner or worker can ask you not to enter until you wear a face covering such as a mask. However, it is not the shop owner or employee’s responsibility to enforce the face covering rules. It is your responsibility to do the right thing and wear a face covering.

Can someone ask me to remove my face covering to check my ID?

Banks, post offices and other services can ask that you remove your face covering to check your identity.

When purchasing alcohol or tobacco you may be asked by staff to remove your face covering as part of checking your ID.

Will business owners be fined if customers refuse to wear face coverings?

A business owner will not be fined if a customer refuses to wear a face covering. The penalty would be applied to the customer.

What happens if I don’t wear a face covering?

People who live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must wear face coverings when they leave home for one of the four reasons to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). You may be fined $200 if you do not wear a face covering unless they you have a valid reason for not wearing a face covering.

The Deputy Public Health Commander has directed that employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that employees wear a face covering at all times when working at the employer’s premises.

Where the work or task requires the use of specific types of face coverings in the workplace, these must be provided by the employer. Where an employee seeks to provide and use their own face covering at work, an employer must ensure that it is meeting its obligations under the OHS Act.

Will I be fined for not carrying a face covering with me?

You must carry a face covering with you unless you have a lawful excuse for not wearing a face covering such as a medical condition or are under the age of 12. You can be fined if you don’t wear or carry a face covering (where there’s a lawful excuse not to wear a face covering, such as when you’re eating).

You can also use a scarf or bandana instead of a face covering. You can also make your own face covering.