Some of our custodial employees won’t wear dust masks because they’re “uncomfortable.” Can we make them wear the masks for their own safety?
First, ensure the masks fit properly. Then keep in mind that under OHS laws, you not only can but must ensure employees use masks or other appropriate respiratory protective equipment. Although human rights laws also require you to accommodate employees’ disabilities to the point of undue hardship, mere lack of comfort isn’t a disability. Exception: Accommodations could be necessary if the discomfort is caused by hypersensitivities, allergies or other conditions that may be deemed disabilities. But even in that situation:
- You’d have the right to ask the employee to provide a doctor’s note or other documentation verifying that he/she has such a disabling condition; and
- You wouldn’t have to make accommodations that endanger the employee or another person’s health and safety—tolerating a danger is generally deemed undue hardship, especially if it puts a third person at risk.