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Can a school forbid you from wearing PPE?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by greygaunt, May 25, 2020.

  1. greygaunt

    greygaunt New commenter

    If you return to school in June and you choose to wear a face mask but are then told by SLT to stop doing so what recourse do you have?
  2. Appilihp40

    Appilihp40 New commenter

    Say you’ll wear it or can teach from home.
    ridleyrumpus and tall tales like this.
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    The wearing or not of masks should have formed part of the risk assessment and plans for reopening that your school has already shared with you. There shouldn't come a point where a member of staff arrives in a mask and the head tells them to remove it. Such a stand off wouldn't be great for either.
    If you want to wear a mask and are concerned, then contact your head now and have a discussion.
    ridleyrumpus, strawbs, asnac and 3 others like this.
  4. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Exactly. Don't generate a confrontation, discuss and find a solution.
  5. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    There's no simple answer to that. Don't refuse a direct instruction from management without consulting your union and having their support. Unless you want to be the national test case for whether someone can be disciplined and dismissed for refusing to teach without PPE. Refusing a direct management instruction is potentially a Gross Misconduct offence. In theory anyway, it's hard to imagine any head taking it to that point at present.

    Better to resolve a difference of opinion through discussion, backed by your union if necessary.

    I assume that your school has done, and made available to you, its risk assessment for re-opening and that explains why and when PPE should or shouldn't be worn.

    I haven't looked up the latest version of government guidance but broadly recall it says PPE in schools isn't necessary or recommended (except in some specific situations) but it doesn't say it can't or shouldn't be worn. it's down to schools.

    Beware of advice telling you no-one has to work in a dangerous workplace. Although that is true individual employees don't get the final say in deciding whether a workplace is dangerous.
  6. greygaunt

    greygaunt New commenter

    No risk assessment has been made available to us at this time although 'consultations' are under way. Thank you and other posters for your comments.
    My initial thought was that a decision to wear or not to wear a face mask was a personal choice based on perceived risk. A responsible individual would be within their rights to mitigate such a risk surely?
    After all, I would not be refusing to teach or perform my other duties. I am not seeking a confrontation - simply curious about the justification the school would use for forbidding an employee from taking such a small protective measure.
    At the moment this is all academic - my feeling is that if any school were to take such an action and the teacher in question were to subsequently contract Covid-19 matters would become rather different.
    tall tales likes this.
  7. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    In one meeting I was part of, quite a few staff said they didn't want any PPE because it would "look scary" and "us wearing masks might upset the children".

    We just have to hope the children won't be scared or upset to hear their teachers are ill with Covid19.
  8. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    My understanding, which may be incorrect, is that the masks generally available to the public are not protecting you, but rather protecting others from being infected by you.

    Keep safe, everyone
    Stiltskin, Pomza, Piranha and 9 others like this.
  9. lilachardy

    lilachardy Star commenter

    Theo is right.
    Wearing a mask protects others from you. Only the sealed sort that they wear in ICU can protect you from others. The sort that cut into your face and ears.
    bombaysapphire, Pomza, nomad and 3 others like this.
  10. greygaunt

    greygaunt New commenter

    Not the advice that other European countries are now giving. Aerosolised viral particles breathed out in a confined space are a threat which a properly worn face mask, in conjunction with hand washing etc, can help mitigate.
    In the end for me it is simple. I have lost two good friends (both fit, under 60 and with no previous health conditions) to this virus. I am in my mid 50s and male. If I contract Covid 19 there is a risk that I will do so seriously. I have a right to mitigate that risk - or do I?
    suzuki1690, Marisha and tall tales like this.
  11. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    It isn't really a 'small measure' though.

    I was served by someone wearing one in a shop a week or so ago. I couldn't understand what he were asking me to do which was hugely embarrassing for us both. In the end he had to lift his mask to speak, as he had for the customer before. I'm pretty capable when it comes to shopping and have a fair idea what any sales assistant would ask me to do, yet I still couldn't understand.

    Is a primary age child going to have the faintest clue what you are talking about if you try to teach while wearing one? Probably not, therefore this 'small measure' actually prevents you doing your job as effectively.

    Send an email to your head this week and ask for clarification. Give the reasons you have given here for wanting to wear one and await the response. Then decide what to do next. You may well be pleasantly surprised and they suggest a man over 50 stay at home.
  12. greygaunt

    greygaunt New commenter

    We will have to agree to disagree - in addition I teach secondary - not primary and pride myself on being able to articulate myself very well.

    As to potentially being allowed to work from home - I cannot help but smile. I am
    fit and healthy and, knowing my HT as I do, confidently believe it will be a cold day in hell before that happens.
    suzuki1690 and tall tales like this.
  13. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    What has your school actually communicated to you on this matter? I cannot see anything concrete in your posts.

    If you don't work at a school where you feel you can approach your head/SLT about this matter then you should probably leave, that's the person you need to have your back when things go wrong, as they are wont to, in teaching.

    Do you have a right to wear a mask if the school says no after having performed a risk assessment? Probably not, the school could make the case that having a mask on interferes with your ability to perform your job (which it does) and your only real recourse then would be to create a kerfuffle and challenge the risk assessment, I suspect the risk assessment will basically be the one that the government has sent out that has been through multiple lawyers. I'd say that your chances are slim to none.

    As to what protection they offer, almost all of the preventative effect is due to infected people having a mask on, it prevents the larger aerosolised virus droplets with a high viral load from escaping. It does little to stop the smaller droplets, hence the major effect is at the source of the infection.
  14. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Children with hearing problems are terrified by the thought of their teachers wearing masks. If the masks definitely kept them-or their teachers-safe, it could be argued that deaf children should just have to stay home. But, as one asked, if things are so unsafe, why are schools opened anyway?
    My friend (a Muslim, which is relevant here) once said that she thought it would be wrong for any teacher to cover her face, because some children, more than others, would struggle if a teacher did so. I must say this woman is anti-face-covering at all, because she sees it as unnecessary to her faith, and I don't know what her opinion would be on this matter, but I bring it up because if female staff in your school do cover their faces, wouldn't they allow men to do so? I only ask-I'm not qualified to advise.
  15. TheHeadteachersOffice

    TheHeadteachersOffice New commenter

    To be frank, I think you know fine well that teachers cannot teach effectively while wearing a face mask. That’s before we even get to the issue of young children being scared.

    I suspect this is yet another attempt by the teaching unions to block any return to school by presenting impossible demands that are not based on science.
  16. greygaunt

    greygaunt New commenter

    If you read my earlier post you will see that this far we have received no risk assessment.
  17. greygaunt

    greygaunt New commenter

    Very glad I don’t work at your school
    suzuki1690 likes this.
  18. install

    install Star commenter

    Another wind up imho :rolleyes:
  19. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I think you have to make a call whether or not this is a battle worth fighting. For me, it isn’t.

    As is stated by Theo, these masks offer limited protection anyway, and are more about people limiting the potential of passing on their disease to others.

    To be honest, it isn’t really appropriate in a school environment for either psychological or practical purposes IMO.
  20. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    Surely the normal advice to the OP should be to speak to their Union, and see what they are doing about this? (For example to ensure the school has a robust risk assessment).
    strawbs and TheoGriff like this.

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