Questions and answers
Are there exceptions for donors, employees, contractors or volunteers who can’t wear a surgical mask?
- Exceptions for donors:
- If a donor says they cannot wear a surgical mask, they can either:
- Wear a CBS- supplied surgical mask over their own or;
- Wear a CBS-supplied cloth mask.
- CBS-supplied N95 masks are available upon request (if supply allows)
- Wearing their own N95 mask
- If they refuse to wear a mask, they will not be allowed to donate
- If a donor says they cannot wear a surgical mask, they can either:
- Exceptions for employees, contractors and volunteers:
- Employees, contractors and volunteers have the option to wear a CBS-supplied N95 mask
- If they cannot tolerate a surgical mask directly on their skin, they can wear a CBS- supplied surgical mask over a cloth mask.
- A small number of cloth masks aligned with Public Health Agency of Canada guidance have been procured for employees, contractors and volunteers who have indicated that they cannot wear a surgical mask.
What are the benefits of wearing a surgical mask?
Surgical masks have greater ability to filter or trap infectious particles compared to fabric masks and can prevent the spread of infectious respiratory droplets from the person wearing the mask.
They also help protect the person wearing the mask from the infectious respiratory droplets of others.
Canadian Blood Services' supplied surgical masks are certified to at least an ASTM Level 1, meaning they are tested to meet certain requirements for filtration efficiency (minimum 95% filtration) and breathability. Cloth face coverings do not have standard certification levels that can be verified (filtration can be anywhere from 30—80%)
The risk of transmission of COVID-19 is likely lower if all individuals are wearing surgical masks, compared to fabric masks.
Does Canadian Blood Services recommend that employees wear double masks to limit the spread of COVID-19?
At this time, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) does not recommend double masking as an effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19. In line with this guidance, Canadian Blood Services does not recommend or require employees, volunteers, contractors or donors to wear double masks in our environments.
Canadian Blood Services supplied surgical masks are mandatory for all donors, employees, contractors and volunteers. When worn properly they provide effective protection against COVID-19. Our surgical masks are certified to at least ASTM Level 1, meaning they are tested to meet certain requirements for filtration efficiency (minimum 95 per cent filtration) and breathability.
To protect yourself and others, it is important to ensure that your surgical mask is well-fitting. It should be large enough to completely and comfortably cover your nose, mouth and chin without gaping.
We’ve had some employees ask whether they can wear double masks while at work. Although double masking is not required in our environments, we’ve updated our mask policy to provide guidance if an employee or volunteer chooses to double mask:
- If you choose to wear two masks, you should wear a Canadian Blood Services surgical mask closest to your skin and a cloth mask as the outer layer.
- You should not wear two surgical masks since the evidence of improved mask performance is based only on using a surgical and cloth mask together.
- If you find that the double masking interferes with comfortable breathing, you should return to wearing a single Canadian Blood Services provided surgical mask.
- If you are unable to tolerate a surgical mask directly against your skin, you continue to have the option to wear the Canadian Blood Services supplied surgical mask over a cloth mask.
- Employees who are unable to tolerate a Canadian Blood Services supplied surgical mask should speak with their manager to receive further guidance.
Why was the decision made to require CBS-supplied masks in our sites?
Ultimately, this is to protect the safety of donors, employees and our operations.
Our supply of surgical masks meets a minimum standard to ensure they contain droplets and protect against the droplets of others. Our masks provide a minimum level of protection (95 % filtration).
If everyone is wearing the same mask type (and one that is not damaged or dirty) it is easier for public health to complete investigations if there is a positive case.
We are unable to inspect masks not supplied by Canadian Blood Services to ensure they meet the same standards.
We have three-layer cloth masks that meet PHAC guidelines for those donors who can't wear a surgical mask.
How can I make wearing a surgical mask more comfortable?
If an employee is experiencing discomfort by securing the mask behind their ears, we recommend using ear savers supplied by Canadian Blood Services. You can also purchase these on your own and speak to your manager about the options for reimbursement.
Employees are also permitted to wear a mask bracket if they choose. There is no research to suggest they are unsafe when used properly and as long as they don’t interfere with the fit of the mask. Employees using mask brackets should make sure that the bracket does not allow any gaps between the mask and their face as this would decrease the efficacy of the face mask.
When is it acceptable for employees 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.
- Cubicles with wall heights on all three sides that are at or above 55” are sufficient as seated barriers to remove your mask when you are working alone at your personally assigned cubicle.
- Cubicles with wall heights on all three sides that are at or above 70” are sufficient to remove your mask when you are alone in your personally assigned cubicle at a standing height (i.e using a sit stand).
- Masks must be put back on whenever another person comes to your cubicle and when individuals move about spaces.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 surgical mask?
A surgical mask must 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.
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 are we doing to mitigate the environmental impact of mandatory surgical masks?
Surgical masks are required for employees and donors in our operational environments to best protect against the spread of COVID-19. While the use of these disposable masks is necessary for our safety, we know that this decision may have negative effects on the environment. To minimize the impact of disposable masks, we have rolled out a surgical mask recycling program at all Canadian Blood Services sites. Terracycle Zero Waste Boxes are in our facilities across the country. Employees are encouraged to place their used surgical masks in the boxes for recycling. How is this helping exactly? Terracycle will take the used masks from over 50 locations and make them into new products like shipping pallets or plastic lumber. Employees are reminded to detach the straps from their surgical masks to reduce the impact of wildlife entrapment. Help us minimize our environmental footprint while keeping our teams and donors safe. If you have questions about the new recycling program contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does Canadian Blood Services use surgical masks containing graphene or biomass graphene?
Canadian Blood Services’ surgical masks do not contain graphene or biomass graphene.
The safety of our employees, volunteers and donors is our top priority. Before providing surgical masks to our teams, our vendors must demonstrate their supply of masks are acceptable by Health Canada.
Our vendors are licensed by Health Canada and have confirmed with us that they do not use graphene or biomass graphene in their manufacturing process.
Are face shields/eye protection mandatory for employees onsite?
Although the use of face shields/eye protection is not mandatory, we strongly encourage our frontline operational teams to wear a face shield/eye protection when physical distancing cannot be maintained, in addition to their required surgical mask when working onsite. Eye protection is only mandatory in some specific regions if local public health requires it. If this applies to you your manager will make you aware.
Research has shown a number of benefits to wearing a face shield/eye protection in addition to a properly fitting surgical mask:
It can significantly limit your short-term exposure to infectious droplets, reducing contamination of your respiratory system.
It provides an additional layer of protection around your face/eyes, reducing the potential for splashes, sprays and droplets from sneezing and coughing.
It makes it harder for you to accidentally touch your mask or your eyes, therefore reducing the potential for transmission.
If you choose to wear a face shield/eye protection provided by Canadian Blood Services in addition to your mask, here is what you need to know:
- Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to safely put on and remove your face shield.
- You must clean your face shield/eye protection at the beginning and end of your shift with soap and water, isopropyl alcohol or disinfectant wipes. Face shields/eye protection do not need to be changed or cleaned after every close interaction with another person.
- Your provided face shield/eye protection is reusable — but ONLY by you. It should not be shared with others. If possible, label your eye protection so it isn’t accidentally misplaced or used by someone else.
- If your face shield/eye protection becomes damaged, please ask your manager/supervisor for a replacement.
- Your face shield/eye protection should be left at your place of work when you have completed your shift. If you need to take it home or for transportation to a mobile donor event, you must thoroughly clean your face shield/eye protection prior to leaving the donor centre.
Remember, the additional protection of wearing a face shield/eye protection with a mask is not a replacement for following all other safety measures in place such as physical distancing and proper hand hygiene. Employees should continue to maintain a two-metre distance from others where possible.
If a donor inquires, due to the shortage of supply we regret we cannot provide face shields/eye protection to individuals who are not employed or volunteering with Canadian Blood Services.
Are there any exceptions for drivers who need to remove their mask for safety reasons?
We require employees who operate our vehicles to wear a surgical mask provided by Canadian Blood Services.
If a driver is experiencing issues with his/her glasses fogging, they may remove their mask while they are driving for safety. Otherwise, a mask should be worn at all times. Drivers and passengers should maintain two-metre physical distancing as per our safety protocols.
Here are some tips to keep glasses from fogging up when wearing a mask:
- Ensure the right fit for the mask (fits securely over nose to stop warm air from coming up).
- Wash glasses with dish soap and water, as the soap leaves behind a thin film that acts as a fog barrier.
What if a donor doesn’t want to wear a mask/switch to a CBS-mandated mask?
Anyone entering our sites will be expected to switch to a surgical mask. If a donor indicates that they cannot wear a surgical mask, they have the option of wearing a Canadian Blood Services-supplied surgical mask over their own mask or wearing a Canadian Blood Services-supplied cloth mask. If a donor would like a CBS-supplied N95 mask, they will be permitted to have one, if supply allows. If a donor arrives wearing their own N95 mask, they will not be expected to switch it out for a CBS-supplied mask, if they prefer to keep their own mask on. Unfortunately, anyone who refuses these options will not be allowed our centres.
Why aren’t we fit testing?
Our priority at this time is to source, secure and make available an adequate supply of N95 respirator masks as quickly as possible. The goal is to get these masks to the employees and volunteers who are asking for them, as efficiently as we can. The process of fit testing would expend our limited resources and also significantly delay our ability to make N95s available to our employees and volunteers. In line with public health guidance and other sectors, fit testing will not be part of our implementation process at this time. Employees can feel assured that although their N95 is not fit-tested, they are still generally more effective than surgical masks. We will continue to assess public health guidance on the use of N95 masks in different settings as PPE requirements continue to evolve. We have also provided comprehensive guidance on how to use them properly on our PPE page.
What is the brand of N95 masks?
Our primary N95 masks are the 3M 8210. We are in the process of identifying some secondary options of N95 masks for individuals for whom the primary option may not fit well.
Will it be mandatory to wear N95 masks?
N95 masks are available for optional use. Employees and volunteers who choose not to wear N95 masks will still be required to wear masks (e.g. Canadian Blood Services supplied surgical masks or cloth masks) in accordance with our mandatory mask policy.
Can I wear my own N95 mask?
We understand that employees and volunteers may have a preference to bring their own N95 mask for personal use before they receive the masks provided by Canadian Blood Services. Until our N95 masks are made available, employees and volunteers will be supported should they wish to bring their own from home.
Please be aware that, throughout the pandemic, concerns have been raised about counterfeit N95 products. If you do wish to bring your own N95 from home, be aware of the following tips that a respirator may be counterfeit:
- No markings at all on the filtering facepiece respirator
- Missing or incorrectly spelled certification markings
- Presence of decorative fabric or other decorative add-ons (e.g., sequins)
Please note that Canadian Blood Services will not reimburse employees or volunteers for N95 masks that may be brought from home for use in our workplaces.
What about donors, will they be asked to wear our N95 masks?
Donors will not be asked to wear N95 masks. However, they will still be required to wear masks (Canadian Blood Services supplied surgical and/or cloth masks) in accordance with our current mandatory mask policy. If a donor asks to be provided with a N95, we may provide one, if supply allows. Should a donor come in with their own N95 mask, they have the option to wear their own N95.
What are the benefits of wearing N95 masks?
N95 masks effectively filter particulates and aerosols from the air. This includes aerosols that may contain COVID-19. An N95 generally offers a greater degree of protection than a surgical mask because a N95 fits more closely against a wearer’s skin. With a closer fit, there’s less potential for aerosols and particulates to leak around the edges of a N95 into a person’s breathing zone.
Are we still asking donors to remove their own N95 mask and replace it with one of our masks?
Should a donor come in with their own N95 mask, they have the option to continue wearing it or replace it with one of our surgical masks. They are no longer required to wear a surgical mask over top of their N95.
Can I reuse a N95 mask?
N95 masks are designed to be single-use PPE. Although there is ongoing research about the extent to which N95 mask may be re-used, Canadian Blood Services does not recommend re-use of N95 masks.
Are N95 masks recyclable?
Yes. Look for recycling receptacles in your workplace.
How can we be certain a donor’s N95 mask is acceptable? Wouldn’t putting one of our surgical masks over their N95 alleviate these concerns?
At this time, we know that respirator masks like N95 are more effective against variants, like Omicron. We trust that our donors choose to wear the most appropriate mask for themselves.
If you see obvious signs of wear, soiling or contamination, please offer them a new N95 mask, if supply allows, or a surgical mask.
If you notice that a donor’s N95 appears to have an exhalation valve, then ask the donor to wear a CBS-supplied surgical mask over top or switch for one of our surgical or N95 masks.
Types of masks used at Canadian Blood Services
The safety of our employees and volunteers is our top priority. Before providing masks to our teams, our vendors 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 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. If you have questions or concerns please reach out to the procurement team for further guidance.
Oliberte Level 1 – 50 Pack
- Surgical masks are most effective when dry. If your surgical mask becomes wet from perspiration or otherwise, it should be removed immediately. Canadian Blood Services supply of Canadian Oliberte Masks are certified to ASTM-1. Meaning they meet a certain level of breathability and filtration efficacy.
- There are circumstances where the mask could become wet within an hour of wearing it, such as excessive sweating. For this reason, Oliberte has recommended that their masks be exchanged after one hour, as they cannot regulate that the user will know to change their mask should it be become wet.
- ASTM-1 certified masks, such as the Oliberte supply, should be changed once every eight hours unless the mask has become wet. Should the mask become wet from sweating or otherwise, it should be changed immediately.
- To limit the spread of COVID-19, surgical masks should not be reused
Ensy (ProMed) Level 3 – 50 Pack (hypoallergenic)
- Surgical masks are most effective when dry. If your surgical mask becomes wet from perspiration or otherwise, it should be removed immediately.
- Our supply of hypoallergenic masks are limited. We encourage employees to only use these masks if needed.
- To limit the spread of COVID-19, surgical masks should not be reused
3M™ N95 8210 Mask
N95s are disposable masks that filter 95% of particulates and aerosols as small as 0.3 microns from the air. They should be worn as directed by the manufacturer (possible link here to wherever we put the donning instructions), and removed like this (possible link to removal instructions). N95s are designed to be single-use, and should be discarded after they are worn. N95s should also be disposed of if they become damaged or wet.