Information on wearing face masks at work

Key points

  • From 11 October all Victorians must wear a fitted face mask when they leave home, not matter where they live. 
  • All Victorians must wear a fitted face mask when they leave home, no matter where they live. As restrictions ease and movement increases, the effectiveness of a face mask is even more important. 
  • You must wear a fitted face mask that covers the nose and mouth. This means that face shields, bandanas, or scarves or loose snoods, loose buffs or loose neck gaiters on their own will no longer be considered a sufficient face covering.  
  • There are a number of lawful excuses for not wearing a face mask.
  • A face mask with three layers is the option recommended by the Chief Health Officer, as it provides the best protection for you and others.
Your questions answered

What does wearing a fitted face mask mean?

You must wear a face mask when you are leaving your home unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so. From 11:59pm 11 October you must wear a fitted face mask that covers the nose and mouth. This cannot be a face shield, bandana or scarf on its own. A face mask needs to be worn covering both your nose and mouth.

  • A fitted face mask is now required instead of other face coverings because it provides better protection. As restrictions ease and movement increases, the effectiveness of a face mask is even more important.
  • A face mask 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.

From 11:59pm 11 October you cannot wear a face shield on its own. You can wear a face shield with a face mask. If you have a lawful reason for not wearing a face mask, you can choose to wear a face shield on its own. A face shield means any film made from plastic or other transparent material designed or made to be worn like a visor, covering the wearer’s forehead to below the chin area and wrapping around the sides of the wearer’s face, to provide the wearer protection.

Download a poster of what face masks you can and can't wear (PDF).

Download a poster of what face masks you can and can't wear (Word).

How to wear a face mask

Can I wear a snood, buff or gaiter instead of a mask? 

  • A face mask is always recommended. The Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with three layers that fits securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth.  
  • However, a fitted snood, fitted buff or fitted gaiter is allowed. 
  • The emphasis is on fitted.  
  • In this instance fitted means the snood, buff or gaiter can extend in a fitted form to snugly fit over and cover your nose and mouth. It must be secure around your neck and lower face with no gaps along the nose ridge or the top of the garment. This is designed to protect you from coronavirus. It must be a sufficient face covering for this purpose. 
  • A loose-fitting snood, buff or gaiter or scarf or bandana is not allowed. 

What is a snood, buff or gaiter? 

In this instance a snood, buff or gaiter is taken to mean a face and neck covering, in the form of a closed loop, worn around the face and neck. They are taken to be interchangeable terms.  

Is a scarf or bandana an appropriate face covering?

From 11:59pm 11 October you must wear a fitted face mask that covers the nose and mouth, designed to protect you from coronavirus (COVID-19). It does not mean a scarf or bandana or loose snood, loose buff or loose gaiter. 

The Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with three layers that fits securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth. 

Why should I wear a fitted face mask?

You must wear a fitted face mask covering your nose and mouth when you are leaving your home, unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so. 

As restrictions ease and movement increases, the effectiveness of a face mask is even more important. 

Do I have to wear a fitted face mask while working?

Yes, you have to wear a fitted face mask unless you meet one of the reasons for exemptions, such as a medical condition.

What does ‘fitted’ mean?

Fitted means a mask or covering that fits securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas. The fitted mask or snood, buff  or gaiter should fit snugly on your face and be secure around your neck and lower face. 

Face shields, bandanas, and scarves or loose face coverings on their own are not sufficient. 

Why does it need to be fitted and snug? 

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 masks or approved fitted face coverings are an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones. 

Lawful excuses or exceptions for not wearing a face mask

A face mask is not required in some circumstances including:

  • 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 condition of the face, a disability or a mental health condition.
  • Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a face mask would create a risk to that person’s health and safety related to their work, as determined through Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) guidelines.
  • Persons whose professions require clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth. This includes teaching or live broadcasting.
  • Professional sportspeople when training or competing.
  • If you are working on your own property with members of your household, but no staff or contractors are on site.
  • When you are doing any exercise or physical activity where you are out of breath or puffing. Examples include jogging or running, but not walking. You must carry a face mask on you and wear it when you finish exercising.
  • When directed to remove the face mask to ascertain identity.
  • When you are travelling in a vehicle by yourself or with other members of your household.
  • When consuming food, drink or medication, including when seated at a restaurant where permitted.
  • When undergoing dental treatment or other medical care to the extent that the procedure requires that no face mask may be worn.
  • During emergencies.

You must carry a face mask with you when leaving home, even if you don’t need to wear it while undertaking your current activity. For example, you can take your face mask off to eat or while you are running, but you must carry it with you and put it back on when you finish.

People with lawful exemptions for not wearing a face mask still need to keep 1.5 metres apart from others, wash or sanitise their hands frequently and get tested if unwell (even with mild symptoms). Find out more about staying safe.

Do employees need to wear a face mask 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 mask while undertaking that activity. However once they have completed that task, they should put their face mask back on.

Can I take my face mask off if I find it uncomfortable while working?

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

Do I need to wear a face mask at my place of work or my desk, even if I am 1.5 metres away from others?

Yes. You must wear a face mask when you leave your home, which includes working, unless an exception applies.

Do I need to wear a face mask if I work from home?

If you are working from home, you do not need to wear a face mask, unless you are caring for someone at home who has coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

Yes, you are required to ensure your employees wear face masks if they are working, unless an exception applies.

I work in a call centre. Do I need to wear a face mask when I am speaking with people on the telephone?

Yes, unless an exception applies. 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 mask?

Yes, unless an exception applies. Construction workers have to wear a face mask unless they meet any of the criteria for exception, such as a medical condition, or if wearing a face mask creates a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by OHS guidelines.

Does the barista at my coffee shop have to wear a face mask?

Yes, baristas will have to wear a face mask unless they meet any of the criteria for lawful excuses such as a medical condition.

What about the supermarket employee on the checkout?

Yes, supermarket employees will have to wear a face mask unless they meet any of the criteria for lawful excuses such as a medical condition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You must wear face mask when you leave home. You may be fined $200 if you do not wear a face mask unless you have a valid exemption.

The Chief Health Officer has directed that employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that employees wear a face mask at all times when working at the employer’s premises.

Where the work or task requires the use of specific types of face masks in the workplace, these must be provided by the employer. Where an employee seeks to provide and use their own face mask 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 mask with me?

You can be fined if you don’t wear or carry a face mask with you, unless you have a lawful excuse such as a medical condition, you’re under the age of 12, or when you’re eating.

Learn how to make your own face mask.