COVID-19: Face covering guidance for passengers and workers in the rail sector - Face covering procedures


To provide guidance to rail industry on face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained or when local authorities require it.


Passenger Rail Carriers should:

  1. Notify passengers at time of ticket purchase that they may be subject to a health check and to wear a face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained or when requested by the rail operator in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and,
  2. Have employees read out an announcement, similar to the one provided in Annex A, prior to or onboard the train. Where required, the rail carrier should post equivalent signage.

Freight and Passenger Railway Companies should:

  1. Ensure that workers have in their possession or have access to a face covering of their own; and,
  2. Ensure that a face covering is worn by workers on a risk-based approach that is specific to the unique circumstances of the workplace or when local authorities require it.

Face Covering

Face coverings (i.e. non-medical masks) are made of at least two layers of protective absorbent fabric (e.g., cotton or linen) that are large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping and are secured to the face with ties or ear loops. Face coverings are an additional measure to prevent respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. A face shield is also an acceptable form of face covering.

When physical distancing (i.e. 2-metre physical distance from others) is not possible in public settings (e.g., at train stations or on board the train), wearing a face covering is recommended as one way to protect others.

It should be noted that medical masks, including surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks), must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing means keeping a distance of at least 2 arm's length from others (i.e. approximately 2-metre physical distance from others). Physical distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak. Physical distancing on board of the train and in train stations should be observed, as possible. The gathering of multiple people in common areas should be discouraged.

Current public health orders that outline maximum gathering size vary by province or territory and should be observed. There should be no more than this maximum in the same space under any circumstance. In addition, common greetings such as handshakes should be avoided.

Appropriate Use of Face Covering

Instructions on how to make cloth face covering are published

In some circumstances a face covering must not be worn:

  1. Infant under two years-old and small children who are not able to maintain a face covering during travel;
  2. Persons with health conditions - any person whose medical condition results in (a) trouble breathing unrelated to COVID-19 or (b) renders them unable to snugly fit a face covering over their nose and mouth;
  3. A person who is unconscious or anyone unable to remove them without assistance;
  4. Safety endangered – any situation where wearing a face covering would impede personal safety (including when eating or drinking); and,
  5. Subject to authorities – any situation where a local authority requires that an individual nose and/or mouth be visible and/or exposed.

When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.

Non-medical masks or face coverings should:

  • allow for easy breathing;
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops;
  • maintain their shape after washing and drying;
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty;
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment;
  • be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen); and;
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping.

Some masks also include a pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, for increased benefit.

Non-medical masks or face coverings should not:

  • be shared with others;
  • impair vision or interfere with tasks;
  • be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials;
  • be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials; or,
  • be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues.

Hygiene best practices using face covering

When choosing to use a face covering good hygiene practices are important:

  • hand washing immediately before putting it on, before taking it off, and immediately after taking it off;
  • the face covering should fit well (non-gaping); and,
  • the face covering must not be shared with others.

When wearing a face covering the material can become contaminated on the outside, or when it is touched by hands, therefore the following steps must be taken:

  • avoid touching the face covering while using it;
  • continue practicing good hand hygiene; and,
  • change a cloth mask as soon as it gets damp or soiled;
    • put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of;
    • cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly;
    • masks that cannot be washed should be discarded and replaced as soon as they get damp, soiled or crumpled;
    • dispose of masks properly in a lined garbage bin; and,
    • don't leave discarded masks in shopping carts, on the ground, etc.

Limitations of face covering

Face coverings are not medical devices and are not regulated like medical masks and respirators. Their use poses a number of limitations:

  • they have not been tested to recognized standards;
  • the fabrics are not the same as used in surgical masks or respirators;
  • the edges are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth;
  • they may not provide complete protection against virus-sized particles; and,
  • they can be difficult to breathe through and can prevent you from getting the required amount of oxygen needed by your body

These types of masks may not be effective in blocking virus particles that may be transmitted by coughing, sneezing or certain medical procedures. They do not provide complete protection from virus particles because of a potential loose fit and the materials used.

Importance of continued good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food;
    • use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • when coughing or sneezing:
    • cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand; and,
    • dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands afterwards.
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Annex A: Sample notification to train passengers

In order to manage the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada, along with the provinces and territories have put in place recommended practices. 

As a reminder, no person should board a passenger train when they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Should symptoms such as a fever, cough or difficulty breathing develop while on-board, please notify railway employees immediately.

Based on a recommendation from Transport Canada, during the voyage, you are asked to wear a face covering that covers your mouth and nose in situations where you cannot maintain two metres of physical separation with others.

The face covering should cover your mouth and nose. When worn properly, a face covering can reduce the spread of infectious respiratory droplets.

Please note that a face covering is not a replacement to proper hand and coughing hygiene such as hand washing and coughing into the bend of your arm.

Annex B: Resources

Government of Canada

Provincial Government