COVID-19 PANDEMIC UPDATES
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Personal protective equipment (PPE)

As our knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, we are constantly reviewing our practices to ensure that they are consistent with the latest science, government regulations and advice from public health. To keep our teams safe and protect our essential operations, we are also assessing how our current practices must be modified as new initiatives, like return to office, start to ramp up.  

Here is an overview of the PPE measures in place at Canadian Blood Services effective Thursday, July 16:

  • In operational environments, including testing, distribution production and logistics, surgical masks will be mandatory at all times. This decision was made with an abundance of caution given the essential nature of the work involved and challenges with maintaining physical distancing. 
  • In collections environments, including permanent and mobile donor centres, surgical masks will continue to be mandatory. This measure will now extend to before and after donors arrive, including logistics teams who are involved in setting up and taking down mobile events. 
  • In administrative environments, such as office buildings and common areas, cloth masks will be mandatory at all times, except when an employee is alone at their workstation. Employees are welcome to use their own mask, or one that is provided by our cloth mask inventory. A cloth mask is the minimum requirement for administrative environments, but if an employee will be working in both operational and administrative environments on the same day, they can wear a surgical mask in both environments. 

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Questions and answers

Why is this decision being made now?

As our knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, it is necessary that we do everything possible to protect the continuity of our essential operations and limit the risk of community spread. 

As part of our return to office plan, we carefully assessed the current measures in place in our administrative sites including wellness checks and masks. Through that assessment and with an abundance of caution, we determined that to keep team members who work in administrative environments safe, our position on masks must evolve. By implementing mandatory cloth masks prior to phase one of the return to office plan, we will be better positioned to welcome returning staff and keep team members safe.  

As our knowledge of the virus evolves, we are assessing our measures that directly impact our frontline teams in both collections and operations environments. We completed a risk assessment and determined that given the critical nature of the work involved and the challenges with maintaining physical distancing in these environments, that surgical masks must be mandatory at all times. 

We will be reviewing this decision in September to ensure that it is being implemented effectively in our sites and that it continues to be aligned with the latest science, government regulations and advice from public health. 

Why are different sites using different types of masks?

It is necessary that we do everything possible to protect the continuity of our essential operations and limit the risk of community spread.  

While the global supply of surgical masks appears to be improving slightly, we need to be cautious that the supply chain is subject to much uncertainty. We need to do our part to ensure there is adequate supply for health care workers while protecting our essential operations. 

For this reason, surgical masks are restricted to our  operational environments due to the critical nature of the work performed on a daily basis.  

The cloth masks being provided for administrative environments is aligned with PHAC guidance on non-surgical masks in community settings. They will still provide a suitable physical barrier to reduce droplet transmission. 

Why are we taking a national approach to masks when the rate of infection differs so greatly across the regions? 

We know that the rate of positive cases varies greatly across the country and understand that some of our teams, especially in the Atlantic region or in BC may be wondering why it is necessary to implement nationally.  

It is with an abundance of caution that we have made the decision to apply a consistent policy to make masks mandatory at all Canadian Blood Services sites.  

Why are masks required at all times in operational environments?

Masks are required at all times in testing, distribution, production and logistics to protect the safety of our employees and our essential operations. When working without a mask, individuals may generate droplets which can remain airborne or land on surfaces. Without cleaning practices in place to disinfect an area each time an individual has been in it, this may put our teams and operations at risk.

We, along with the global community are still understanding how COVID-19 is transmitted from one person to another, and how the virus lives on different types of surfaces. So, with an abundance of caution we require our teams to wear a mask at all times in operational environments. This decision reduces the possibility of contamination, is aligned with the latest advice from public health and allows us to better manage cases of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 who have been in our sites.

Employees who cannot wear the masks provided (for health reasons or otherwise) should speak to their supervisor to see if Canadian Blood Services can provide them with an alternative masking option.

We are continuously reviewing the latest information, scientific data and risks to guide our decisions. We will continue to keep employees informed of any new information and how it affects this requirement as it becomes available.

Why do masks need to be worn in common areas where there is plenty of room for physical distancing?

Common areas include meeting rooms, cafeterias (when not eating), bathrooms and other similar spaces.

We, along with the global community are still understanding how COVID-19 is transmitted from one person to another, and how the virus lives on different types of surfaces. So, with an abundance of caution we require our teams to wear a mask at all times in common areas in Canadian Blood Services.

Without a mask, individuals may generate droplets which can remain airborne or land on surfaces. And, without cleaning practices in place to disinfect common areas each time an individual passes through, not wearing a mask may put our teams and operations at risk.

This decision reduces the possibility of contamination, is aligned with the latest advice from public health and allows us to better manage cases of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 who have been in our sites.

Employees who cannot wear the masks provided (for health reasons or otherwise) should speak to their supervisor to see if Canadian Blood Services can provide them with an alternative masking option.

We are continuously reviewing the latest information, scientific data and risks to guide our decisions. We will continue to keep employees informed of any new information and how it affects this requirement as it becomes available.

When is it acceptable not to wear a mask in Canadian Blood Services sites?

There are two scenarios’ where it is acceptable for an employee to remove their mask while working at our sites (administrative and operations):

  • An employee may remove their mask if they are at an individual workstation provided this space is their own to use and is not shared by anyone else. This is incredibly important to protect our teams and our operations as our knowledge of the virus, how it spreads and how it lives on surfaces continues to evolve.
  • An employee may remove their mask to eat. Our employees are required to maintain a two-metre distance from others when eating. We have spaced out tables and seating at our sites to accommodate our teams. Additional cleaning protocols have also been implemented.
None of the surgical masks provided by Canadian Blood Services fit me, can I wear my own?

Employees should speak to their supervisor to see if Canadian Blood Services can provide them with an alternative masking option.  

I cannot wear masks due to health reasons. What should I do?

Employees are asked to discuss this with their supervisor to understand the limitation and how it may be accommodated. 

Can I reuse a cloth mask?

When your cloth mask becomes damp or dirty, PHAC recommends replacing or washing it. When putting your mask in the laundry, ensure you are washing it with hot soapy water and let it dry out completely before using it again.  

Clean masks should be stored in a clean paper bag until you will wear it again.  When removing your mask after a shift, a clean bag, such as a paper bag or Ziplock is recommended to store it until you can launder it at home. 

Can I reuse a surgical mask?

Following guidance issued by Health Canada and other government agencies on mask use in non-critical care settings we are updating our guidelines on the use of surgical masks to provide instructions for scenarios to extend the use of surgical masks during your shift. 

A surgical mask must however be changed at any point if the employee feels they have become contaminated, soiled or damaged. Please refer to the masking guide available through your supervisor for further instructions. 

Will Canadian Blood Services be providing ear savers?

If an employee is experiencing discomfort by securing the face mask behind their ears, we recommend they try the use of “ear savers”.  They come in a number of forms and employee preference may vary, so it may not be practical for us to procure these centrally.  

If an employee can source something locally that works for them, Canadian Blood Services will reimburse reasonable costs. Employees are encouraged to speak to their manager about the options available to them. 

I find masks uncomfortable, can I wear a face shield instead?

A mask can be worn on its own or with the addition of a face shield. However, a face shield cannot be worn on its own because it does not offer the same level of protection and must be worn with a mask. 

What guidance is there for employees on how to eat with a mask?

Our employees are asked to maintain a two metre distance from others when eating. We have spaced out tables and seating at our sites to accommodate our teams. 

As the return to office plan progresses, spaces like cafeterias will be re-assessed to ensure there is enough room for our staff to eat while maintaining physical distance. 

We encourage all employees to review the how-to video to safely put on and remove a mask available on the COVID-19 employee portal. 

A reminder that proper hand hygiene is essential to limiting the risk of spreading COVID-19. Wash your hands often, practice physical distancing and stay home if you are sick. 

Is there an accommodation for team members doing more physically active work? 

There isn’t currently. This decision will be re-assessed in September, so we encourage employees to speak with their managers and supervisors about how this measure is impacting your daily work.  

If you are having issues wearing the masks provided, please speak to your supervisor to see if Canadian Blood Services can provide you with an alternative masking option.  

If an employee is alone in an office area and needs to go to the printer, should they wear mask? 

Yes. Employees must wear a mask at all times in our administrative sites except when they are alone at their workstation with a barrier that is above head height (such as a cubicle wall).   

A workstation can be a typical desk space such as a cubicle or office. However, it can also be working alone in a meeting room, warehouse or boiler room. If you are not in one of these spaces, wearing a mask is mandatory.  

Can employees bring in their own vented mask?

Vented masks with valves are not permitted.

This is decision is aligned with guidance from public health which has determined that the exhalation valves do not limit the spread of the virus to others.

The use of vented masks increases the risk of an individual generating droplets which can remain airborne or land on surfaces. Without cleaning practices in place to disinfect an area each time an individual has been in it, vented masks may put our teams and operations at risk.

Employees should speak to their supervisor to see if Canadian Blood Services can provide them with an alternative masking option if they are unable to wear the masks supplied.

Can employees bring in their own buff?

Buff-type products are not permitted. They have not been designed or certified as protection against viruses, so they are not suitable for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Employees should speak to their supervisor to see if Canadian Blood Services can provide them with an alternative masking option if they are unable to wear the masks supplied.

How to self-administer employee temperature checks
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“How to self-administer employee temperature checks”


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How to put on and remove your surgical mask
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"How to wear a mask"


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How to remove and discard your gloves
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How to remove your gloves


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Quality assurance — surgical masks

The safety of our employees and volunteers is our top priority. Before providing surgical masks to our teams, our manufacturers must demonstrate their supply of masks are acceptable by Health Canada. As we continue to source new supplies of masks, these necessary processes will continue to ensure the quality of our inventory and safety of our teams.

We have sourced inventory of surgical masks from a number of different suppliers. Click below to see the different brands of masks available to frontline employees, what the packaging looks like and how the masks look when worn.

Meide 10pk Masks - Level 1
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Meide 10pk Masks
Gansu 5pk Mask - Level 1
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Gansu 5pk Mask
Fastenal Canada LTD Mask 50pk - Level 1
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Fastenal Canada LTD Mask 50pk
Henry Schein Mask 50pk - Level 1
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Henry Schein Mask 50pk
Original Precept Mask 50pk - Level 3
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Original Precept Mask 50pk
Wessun Mask 20pk - Level 1
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Wessun Mask 20pk
Wessun Mask 50pk - Level 1
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Wessun Mask 50pk