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.

Here is an overview of the PPE measures in place at Canadian Blood Services. For more information on these measures please visit the Q&A below:

  • In operational environments, including testing, distribution production and logistics, surgical masks provided by Canadian Blood Services are MANDATORY. As an exception, three-layered cloth masks have been procured for employees who have indicated to their manager that they cannot wear a surgical mask.
     
  • In collections environments, including permanent and mobile donor centres, surgical masks provided by Canadian Blood Services are MANDATORY for donors and employees.
    • 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.
      • If they refuse, they will not be allowed to donate
    • Exceptions for employees:
      • If an employee 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 the new Public Health Agency of Canada guidance have been procured for employees who have indicated to their manager that they cannot wear a surgical mask.
       
  • In administrative environments, such as office buildings and common areas, Canadian Blood Services supplied surgical masks areMANDATORY. By exception only, Canadian Blood Services supplied three-layered cloth masks will be available for employees who have indicated to their manager that they are unable to wear a surgical mask. See Q&A below for further details on our protocols for eating on site and working at individual workstation exception requirements
     
  • Eye protection for employees, volunteers and third-party contractors is strongly encouraged, especially in situations when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
     
  • Eye protection will be mandatory in a specific region if local public health requires it (e.g. Guelph) 

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Questions and answers

Are the exceptions for donors or employees 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.
      • If they refuse, they will not be allowed to donate
  • Exceptions for employees:
    • If an employee 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 the new Public Health Agency of Canada guidance have been procured for employees who have indicated to their manager that they cannot wear a surgical mask.
Why did Canadian Blood Services decide to implement mandatory surgical masks in our environments?

New public health guidance: This update aligns more closely with the latest PHAC guidance on three-layered cloth masks. This measure will provide donors and employees with reassurance that we are taking all steps necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 as cases across the country continue to rise and restrictions increase in many jurisdictions.

Employee and donor safety: This update will enable all individuals in our sites to wear a mask that has proven efficacy for reducing transmission (95% filtration).

Global supply: The global supply of surgical masks has improved, and we understand that there is now is adequate supply for healthcare workers.

Operational effectiveness: If donors are wearing surgical masks in collection sites, it may positively impact isolation requirements and reduce impacts to our operations. It will also make it easier for public health to conduct investigations both in our operational and administrative environments, if required.

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?

In January, 2021, media reports provoked employees to ask whether they should be wearing two masks instead of one to prevent 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. We are confident that 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.

Note: This is guidance only and does not replace our mandatory masking policies for donors and employees 

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 requirements 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 face 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 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 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 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.

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?

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.

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.

Can employees bring in their own vented mask?

Vented masks with valves are not permitted at Canadian Blood Services.

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 they cannot 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 they cannot wear the masks supplied.

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 are rolling out a new surgical mask recycling program at all Canadian Blood Services sites. You will start to see Terracycle Zero Waste Boxes implemented at 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 carlene.vanderheiden@blood.ca.

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 (e.g. Guelph). 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 accidently 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. 

We are expanding the options for eye protection to provide employees with more choices. Updates will be provided once available. 

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.

For more information on PPE available for Canadian Blood Services employees, please visit www.blood.ca/employees/ppe

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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Types of surgical masks used at Canadian Blood Services

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. You may notice that there is still a small supply of surgical masks previously sourced by Canadian Blood Services at your site that are not listed below. Excluding Gansu brand masks, these are safe to use. If you have questions or concerns please reach out to the procurement team for further guidance.

Oliberte Level 1 – 50 Pack
Oliberte Masks
  • 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)
Ensy Pro med masks
  • 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