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Job-Covid-Mask-COPD & Emphysema

Johnluke profile image

Hi all

Hope everyone is keeping well ?

I ‘ve worked in a care home for the last 7 years and have COPD, Asthma and emphysema. I have continually worked through this Covid pandemic after carrying out a risk assessment to both myself and residents in the care home. As I only carry out maintenance jobs in and around the home I would only wear a mask when working within 2 metres of a resident however my company has now changed their policy and are forcing me to wear a mask all the time when in the home. This is ok until it comes to doing physical things like climbing ladders, carrying equipment around etc in which case I find it very hard to control my breathing and catch my breath.

Has anyone got any advice please, I’ve tried speaking with my boss and she just says it’s company policy.

Many thanks


35 Replies
Damon1864 profile image

Hi Johnluke couldn't wear one of those clear facemasks that cover all of your face it's worth asking. Hope you get it sorted please let us know. Have a good day and take care 😊 Bernadette and Jack 🐕 xxxxxx 🌻🌻

Johnluke profile image
Johnluke in reply to Damon1864

Hi thanks for your reply I have worn a face shield however these are not very practical when carrying out some of the jobs I need to complete, like replacing parts under beds or fixing/ replacing water pipes. As I said I do wear a mask as it’s not so restrictive or fall off every two minutes.

Is it worth looking at this as discrimination against a disabled worker? You are willing and able to meet the health requirements of the residents, so that should be adequate.

Johnluke profile image
Johnluke in reply to SORRELHIPPO

Thanks for your reply, I have been speaking to my union rep and has informed me it’s not law but a recommendation/ guide to wear mask in care home setting.Have a meeting hopefully this week with my team leader and see what he has to say about it all.

I would suggest that you do wear a mask all the time, except that like everyone else when you eat, drink, or do anything with your mouth, you move it down beneath your chin. In your case you need to do that in a few other instances for health and safety reasons. If you collapsed as a result of restricted breathing the company would be responsible for your injuries whether it was company policy or not. I wouldn’t made a big issue out of this and neither will your boss if she has any sense.

Johnluke profile image
Johnluke in reply to Don-1931

Thanks for your reply, I do wear a mask as I’ve said, however sometimes it does get a bit much. Everyone has had the vaccines jabs so the risk is even lower now than ever, point im trying to raise is that not everyone can wear a mask, it does effect breathing in and the fibres that come from it does irritate the airway, it’s not like I’m just sat behind a desk.

Ergendl profile image
Ergendl in reply to Don-1931

Love the idea of wearing the mask as a chin warmer when doing something really physical. I can't wear one across my nose and mouth either when I'm setting up tables and chairs in church, which is physical for me.

You are preaching to the converted here, John.

Johnluke profile image
Johnluke in reply to Don-1931

Hi Don, not preaching, was asking for advice of which you have given none but thanks anyway.

Don-1931 profile image
Don-1931 in reply to Johnluke

You're welcome, John, I'm sure the union rep will be more than happy to take up the matter.

I sympathise John, I really struggle to breathe wearing a mask. I wonder if the increase in cases of covid once more has any bearing with your employer's change in policy along with the effect of vaccines wearing off. I'm glad that you have a union to support you. Good luck Carole

Ern007 profile image
Ern007 in reply to CDPO16

I found this morning, hospitals have got more strict - Now a person is there to make sure hands are washed.. That is new, masks always had to be worn. In Scotland COVID is on the increase

CDPO16 profile image
CDPO16 in reply to Ern007

Same in England Ern, take care

Ern007 profile image
Ern007 in reply to CDPO16

Oh I am English, read what has happened in Scotland 😀 I was at hospital this morning and they have gone stricter than last week, A dedicated person telling all to ash their hands,,

I would have thought it puts your safety at risk to climb ladders while wearing a mask. Good luck in coming to a reasonable agreement about this matter.

Johnluke profile image
Johnluke in reply to Alberta56

Thanks for your reply, all the safety is aimed at the residents and not much towards the staff, I understand the need to wear masks and PPE when dealing with residents but as with all of it there’s a correct time and place, also one mask doesn’t fit all,

Wearing a mask while climbing ladders is very dangerous anyway as masks don’t tend to stay in place and can ride up and affect your vision, which would be completely unsafe as you cannot let go of the ladder to adjust your mask I would think this could be applied to lots of jobs you do and could possibly sway the Manager to change the policy in your case.

As others have said am pleased you have union support. You are not refusing to wear a mask but not to wear it when doing physical jobs. Seems reasonable to me, especially when residents are not going to be next to you when repairing things!I also believe you are covered by Equality Act and reasonable adjustments.

Whole situation seems unreasonable when you worked throughout the height of the pandemic without issues!

John the goverment advice was always to allow medical exceptions for mask wearing , its beholden on the company to do the same. If they dont they are clearly discriminating against the disabled , at the moment your manager is just citing company policy like a good jobsworth. I would suggest that you carry on as you have been ie wear a mask when you can , and dont when you cant. Its up to your manager to force the issue by written warning if he/she really is silly.

Morning have you tried different types of masks? Worth a look round! I have a small face and standard masks swamp me and often ride up obscuring vision, bought a few different medical grade ones and found one that fits so much better i actually forget am wearing it! I work in peoples homes so has to be medical grade! Good luck 🤞🏻

Hi John luke I also have COPD emphysema and find it difficult to breath with a blue mask so I bought a thin material Snood to wear around my neck and just pull it up over my face when I need to and find it much easier and confortable to breath with. Good Luck🍀

I work in retail & am exempt, i could not wear a mask as my anxiety goes through the roof & i just cant breathe with a mask on. Good luck with you're meeting Johnluke. X

Hi JohnLuke, lots of good comments here. I sometimes stumble or miss my feet when stepping off a kerb or descending stairs BECAUSE the face mask prevents me from SEEING my feet! So I would be specific in language to your Union rep and your employer and have a ready list of the circumstances when wearing a mask prevents you from effectively and safely doing your job. I'm sure the company have a duty of care to both its residents AND to its staff. SH raises the question of discrimination. That IS a very strong point in your favour. Very best wishes to you.

Don-1931 profile image
Don-1931 in reply to Greenthorn

John's boss was just stating a fact about the companies policy. I'm sure that if he spoke to her on the lines I suggested the matter would end there. Bosses were expected to use their common sense in my day perhaps things are different now. Bringing in the heavy guns i.e. Union v Big Employer usually ends in tears all round. Hope John keeps his job.

If they insist, try one with a valve. Much easier to breathe. It protects only you though! Cambridge mask company do them, although they are expensive!

I beIive your manager is wrong, its great that the new policy is aimed at care staff to protect the residents but you need to remove yours for your own safety if your work is maintenance. I'm sure there are many others who, like me have impaired vision and hearing when wearing a mask (which I do a lot & have to watch my step all the time). Hope the union rep steps up for you. P

I agree it is more difficult to breathe with a mask on and surely if the rules were relaxed more before. It seems odd they are being more strict now everyone is vaccinated with insisting you wear a mask. Hope you get it sorted out good luck Brian

I really sympathise with you, I've had to give up wearing my hearing aids as specs, mask and hearing aids just do not work as removing the mask seems to flick the aids outI'm still wearing my mask when shopping etc but appreciate your problem and wearing it while climbing ladders is a positive danger and if you fell it would be a Health and safety matter

Try speaking to your manager again, tell her what you have told us and say that you would prefer not to involve your union etc, I hope she would realise you're not just being difficult. Good luck

It's so difficult when wearing masks affects your breathing I can't wear a mask for work now and being a nurse is not ideal as compulsory to wear one in healthcare. My consultant has said I need to wear a face shield which means I can no longer do hands on patient care. So frustrating I tried for 4 hours few weeks ago and ended up back up on pred and very twitchy lungs. Like you say it's being physical too I literally can't breathe. I'm not sure of a way around it as healthcare settings have very different rules for staff like compulsory face masks and testing and isolating that will remain even though general public not applicable. I guess they'll have to redeploy you where there isn't the patient risk of needing a mask. But I hope you get support and a suitable solution.

Hi Johnluke. The way I catch my breath is to breathe out with pursed lips. Pursed lips helps to eliminate the carbon dioxide in your lungs easier and you oxygen levels increase quicker. At least, this is what I have found.

Johnluke profile image
Johnluke in reply to LWS1948

Thank you for the advice and I seem to be doing that a lot lately as it also helps me control my breathing.

Thats good you tried to speak to the boss and they fobbed you off with policy, so go fob them off with you need a referral to occupational health, all private care home companies have access to them especially if they are making their own policies. The occupational health will be able to assess you individually and TELL the home what you can and cannot do with regards to mask wearing for health reasons which are covered under the equality act. Hopefully your union will advise you to do this too. Good luck

Hi Johnluke, why not ask your consultant to provide an exemption letter? Mine did after I fainted in the supermarket. I become dizzy after wearing a mask for over half an hour. We have COPD and emphysema often making it hard to breathe at the best of times. When your boss says it's "company policy" (for all to wear masks) you should respond that UK gov policy states that there are valid exemptions employers and venues must consider.

Johnluke profile image
Johnluke in reply to KaraKim

Thank you for your reply, I have given work my condition print out from the doctors and they informed me that I could wear a visor which I’ve said isn’t really practical, so seems I’ve gotta apply with their policy!

KaraKim profile image
KaraKim in reply to Johnluke

You need a consultant's letter cos what we print off from our GPs surgeries isn't specific enough. I'd ask to be referred to a consultant if you don't already have one. Best of luck - I have ex military in my family and guys are self employed so they don't have all this employer nonsense, they laughed when I said you were supposed to climb ladders in a mask! The elderly in care homes were treated dreadfully at the start of the pandemic, so I don't believe their health and wellbeing is the reason the company have applied this mandate on staff. It's illogical cos there is no evidence masks stop transmission.

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