Masks should be worn when it’s difficult to maintain a distance of 2 meters from people who don’t live with you. You should wear a mask inside and outside when physical distancing may be a challenge. Masks are required by law in all indoor public spaces and in indoor workplaces. 

Organizations are required to have a policy in place that mandates staff and members of the public to wear a mask indoors. Businesses and organizations are expected to implement and enforce their mask policy in good faith. 

If you enter a business without a mask and you are not exempt, you can receive a ticket. For more information about this regulation, click here.  


What is a mask?

“Mask” means: a medical, disposable, or cloth mask for filtering respiratory droplets that securely covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Masks must be in contact with the surrounding face without gapping. Medical masks are considered the best protection. Bandanas and scarves are not considered masks.

What are PPE requirements for workplaces? When are certified masks and eye protection required?

While PPE is the last line of defense when protecting your workers, it is time to shift from cloth face coverings to appropriate PPE. The Reopening Ontario Act requires workers who are within 2 meters of an unmasked individual to wear PPE that consists of a mask and eye protection. Use the required PPE for all workers who must be within 2 meters of another person and for workers who spend prolonged periods of time with other staff in poorly-ventilated areas. A list of PPE vendors can be found on the province’s PPE Supplier Directory.

PPE is defined as:

  • Face masks: A NIOSH- or ASTM-certified mask is considered PPE. Health Canada has also approved some foreign masks, including select KN95 masks, for use as PPE. Cloth masks are not considered PPE, since they do not offer enough protection. 
  • Eye protection: Face shields, goggles, and CSA-approved safety glasses are considered eye protection. Prescription eyewear is not considered eye protection. 
  • Workers who cannot wear PPE must be protected using other methods such as enhanced distancing greater than 2 meters, barriers in well-ventilated areas, or working from home. 
What is eye protection, and when should it be worn?

In addition to wearing a mask, eye protection is legally required for workers who are in close contact with an unmasked individual.  It is also recommended for workers who will be in close (less than 2 metres) prolonged (greater than 15 minutes) contact with a masked individual. This added protection further reduces the risk to employees. 

How do masks and eye protection work? 

Wearing a mask helps trap COVID-19 and protects people around you. Since some people who are infected with COVID-19 may have the virus and not know it, you should wear a mask in indoor public spaces and when you might come within 2 meters of people you don’t live with. 

Wearing a mask doesn’t block COVID-19 completely. That’s why eye protection is a good precaution. Eye protection prevents infectious droplets from coming into contact with the mucous membranes in your eyes.

How should I put on and take off my mask?

Before and after handling your mask, always wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with minimum alcohol concentration of 60%. You should wash your hands before and after you put your mask on, take it off, or adjust it. Only touch the ear loops of the mask.

When you put your mask on, make sure the face covering fits well around your nose and mouth and is secured to your head with ties or ear loops without the need to adjust frequently. If your face covering has pleats, ensure that the pleats on the outside are facing down. Gently mold the metal strip (if any) over the bridge of your nose.

Avoid touching or moving the face covering around when using it. Replace the face covering as soon as it becomes damp, dirty, or damaged.

Who is exempt from wearing a mask? 

The following individuals do not need to wear a mask or face covering:

  • Children who are younger than two years old
  • People who are unable to put on or remove their mask without help
  • People who have a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask
  • People who are receiving accommodations according to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 or the Human Rights Code.
  • See the province’s website for the full list of exemptions. 

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s statement on human rights codes exceptions to public health measures, including religious and cultural exemptions, is: “The OHRC's policy position is that any requirements related to health and safety and COVID-19, such as wearing a mask, using other protective equipment or following a procedure to perform work safely, or to protect people receiving services or living in housing, do not generally cause concern under the Code.” For more information, click here. The Timiskaming Health Unit interprets this statement to mean that religious and cultural beliefs are not a reason that people can claim a mask exemption. 

What accommodations should exempt people expect at businesses?

Accommodations for people who cannot wear masks should be provided, if possible. A doctor’s note is not required for people to claim an exemption. Businesses may decide which accommodations to put in place for people who cannot wear a mask. These accommodations may include curbside pickup, placing orders curbside, and/or delivery. 

Businesses may decide to refuse entry to exempt individuals. Staff must be protected when interacting with unmasked people. Staff can be protected by the use of impermeable barriers, distancing, or eye protection. There are no exemptions when it comes to protecting staff.

For more information, visit the province’s website.

What factors should I consider when choosing masks and eye protection? 

When buying or making a mask, consider: 

  • Medical masks are considered the best protection. 
  • Cloth masks should be made from two or three layers of tightly woven breathable cloth such as cotton, linen, flannel or quilting cotton. They should not have seams over the mouth and nose through which air may leak. Horizontal pleats can help fit a variety of faces.
  • Avoid masks containing graphene. They have been recalled by Health Canada. 

In addition to a mask, consider purchasing eye protection such as face shields, goggles, or CSA-approved safety glasses. Goggles are considered the best eye protection, but face shields also protect your mask from contamination and can help make up for a poorly-fitting mask. Both face shields and goggles are considered better than safety glasses. However, all three are considered acceptable eye protection.

What do I need to know about fabric masks? How should I wash them?

Cloth masks, like underwear, should be washed regularly. Wash your fabric mask when it becomes damp or dirty. Cloth masks can be washed with regular laundry. Warm or hot water is best if possible, and tumble or hang to dry fully.

What do I need to know about disposable face masks?

Disposable face masks may also be worn. These masks are single-use and should be put in the garbage after use. Snip the ear loops before throwing it out to prevent animals from getting caught in them.

What do I need to know about face shields?  

A face shield is considered eye protection. It is not a substitute for wearing a mask because it doesn’t filter respiratory droplets. Droplets can be inhaled around the shield, or you can spread them to others. If you wear a face shield, we recommend that you also wear a mask if possible. For those who can’t wear a mask, a face shield is considered a “better than nothing” option. A face shield should extend below the chin and cover the sides of the face.

Where can I get a mask? 

Many local retailers sell masks. If you are uncertain of where to get a mask, please contact Timiskaming Connections at, call 1-866-747-4305, Ext. 2278.

What should I do if I can’t afford a mask? 

Not everyone can pick up or afford to buy masks so we would like to help. Please contact Timiskaming Connections at or call 1-866-747-4305, Ext. 2278.