Behavioural factors influencing face covering use in retail consulting environments

As part of Theme 3 of PROTECT, this project aims to identify the factors that influence the use of face coverings and their effectiveness among both workers and consumers in the retail sector, with a specific focus on personal consulting environments (such as consultation rooms at pharmacies and opticians).

This project will help detect gaps in knowledge, highlight ineffective practices, and identify the influential factors which affect people’s behaviour with respect to the use of face coverings in these environments. The findings will be able to inform sector-specific recommendations for the continued safe operation of retail consulting rooms, for the benefit of workers and customers alike.

Additionally, the findings will provide an evidence base for government, industry and the wider community to target educational messaging, risk communication strategies and behaviour change campaigns among workers and consumers regarding effective wearing, storage and disposal of face coverings.

The research questions the project aims to address include:

  • What behaviours make face coverings more or less effective (and what are the common practices and factors that cause these behaviours)?
  • What are the gaps in common knowledge and understanding regarding the use of face coverings as a means of preventing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus?
  • What practices can be shared and lessons learned to enhance the effectiveness of face covering practices as a means of preventing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus?
  • What inaccurate information is believed and/or inadequate face covering practices performed by workers and consumers?

A desktop review of published and ‘grey’ literature will be guided by the research questions above, with findings used to inform the development of primary data collection tools. Interviews with workers and members of the public will be conducted, exploring behaviours concerning the use of face coverings and factors that might influence this within a retail consulting environment. An online survey will then enable validation of interview findings with a larger sample.

If you are a worker who delivers services in a retail consulting room, or a member of the public who uses these services, and would like to share your views on face covering use as part of the study, you can take part in two ways:

You can also contact the project team at

Project stages

Stage 1: Literature review

Stage 2: Interviews/focus groups

Stage 3: Online survey

Stage 4: Reporting implications for policy and practice

Stage 5: Dissemination, influence and impact

Face coverings flow diagram

Project lead

Rebecca Canham, Institute of Occupational Medicine.


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