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Mandatory masks in public places

On November 19, 2020, the provincial health officer (PHO) announced that the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General would be issuing a public safety order under the Emergency Program Act around mandatory use of masks. On November 24, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued an order requiring everyone to wear masks in many indoor settings. There are exemptions for:

  • People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments who cannot wear one
  • People who cannot remove a mask on their own
  • Children under the age of 12

Emergency Management BC has indicated that this order is meant to apply to members of the public.

What employers need to do

Employers should provide signage on the mandatory mask policy and inform customers about the requirement.

Employers should ensure that workers are provided with information on how to discuss mandatory mask usage with customers, including what to do if they refuse or become abusive. Employers should review their violence prevention policy to ensure that it addresses safety issues that may arise.

What workers need to do

Workers must abide by the protocols and policies in their employer's COVID-19 Safety Plan, which may include the use of masks for some circumstances.

Resources for employers and workers

Frequently asked questions

Who is responsible for ensuring workers and customers wear masks?

Employers should provide signage on the mandatory mask policy and inform customers about the requirement.

Who enforces the public mask requirement?

To report contraventions of the mask order, people are asked to contact their local government’s bylaw office. If they are unable to reach a local bylaw office, they can contact their local police department’s non-emergency line. Police may be called if someone becomes threatening or abusive in response to a request to put on a mask.

If everyone is wearing a mask, does that mean we no longer need other protocols, such as physical distancing and barriers?

No. Mask wearing is just one part of an effective COVID-19 Safety Plan. All other workplace protocols including health checks, physical distancing, barriers, masks, and cleaning protocols need to remain in place, and you must ensure that they are being followed appropriately.

What can be worn as a mask?

Members of the public are advised to wear a mask or face covering, defined in the order as a medical or non-medical mask that covers the nose and mouth. Face shields are not a substitute for a mask, as there is an opening below the mouth. Employers are advised to review selecting and using masks in non-health care settings for guidance on appropriate masks for workers.

How should employers manage the exemptions to this order?

This order includes exemptions for:

  • People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive, or mental impairments who cannot wear one
  • People who cannot remove a mask on their own
  • Children under the age of 12

Employers are not required to ask members of the public for proof that an exemption applies to them.