Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Personal Protective Equipment

COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment

WSU employees must wear cloth facial coverings when not working alone: in their office, in the field, or driving in a vehicle. Cloth facial coverings reduce the spread of potentially infectious respiratory droplets while breathing and talking. Cloth facial coverings are not respirators, they do not replace social distancing (6 feet), avoiding face touching and frequent hand washing. The Department of Labor and Industries provides: Coronavirus Hazard Considerations for Employers, Face Coverings, Masks and Respirator Choices

Care for Cloth Facial Coverings

Wash your cloth facial covering frequently, ideally after each use, or at least daily. Wash facial coverings with detergent and hot water and dry on a hot cycle. If you must re-use your cloth face covering before washing, avoid touching your touching your face with the outside of the mask or hands. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after removing or reusing cloth facial coverings. Discard cloth face coverings that:

  • Don’t cover the nose and mouth;
  • With damaged ties or straps;
  • Have tears or holes; or
  • Won’t stay on your face.


Respirators are not recommended for preventing SARS CoV2 exposure while adhering to social distancing requirements. Employees must wear cloth facial coverings when not working alone, with only infrequent and intermittent contact at distances less than 6 feet. When work tasks require employees to work within 6 feet of coworkers or the public for several minutes, without sneeze guards or other controls, employees must wear disposable dust masks or KN95s. Note: KN95s are not NIOSH approved respirators. Employees must wear respirators to prevent COVID-19 exposure when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained for sustained periods i.e. more than 10 minutes an hour, or when working with symptomatic or positive COVID-19 patients. WSU respirator users must enroll in the Respiratory Protection Program.

See also the Department of Labor and Industries Which Mask for Which Task, When to Use Face Coverings and Respirators.


When disinfecting the workplace for COVID-19, use the hazard controls and Personal Protective Equipment identified in the following Job Hazard Assessments :

Alpha HP

70% Ethanol

General Cleaning and Disinfection

Modify the Job Hazard Assessments above so they are department specific and accurately reflect safe procedures.

Personal Protective Equipment

Supervisors and Principle Investigators conduct assessments to evaluate whether hazards are present requiring personal protective equipment (PPE).  WSU’s EH&S Occupational Health & Safety unit conducts hazard assessments to evaluate airborne hazards potentially requiring the use of respiratory protection and noise levels that may require the use of hearing protection.

The Personal Protective Equipment Hazard Assessment and Certification Guidelines may be used to support hazard assessments in non-laboratory workplaces. Hazard assessments are to be documented on the Workplace Hazard Assessment Certification Form.  An example of a completed form can be seen here.

Laboratories should reference the Laboratory Safety Manual, Section 4, and prepare Standard Operating Procedures  evaluating chemical hazards, identifying engineering and administrative controls, supporting PPE selection and documenting training.

Hazard assessments should be conducted whenever new equipment or processes are introduced or an injury or illness investigation indicates the need for personal protective equipment.


Departments are to provide PPE and train employees using PPE. This training includes:

  • Why, when, and what PPE is necessary
  • How to properly put on and take off, adjust, and wear PPE
  • Selection criteria & limitations of PPE
  • Proper care, inspection and maintenance, useful life, and disposal of PPE

WSU provides employees PPE training via Human Resource Services’ Learning and Organizational Development website, see our Training page for more information.