Behavioural factors for effective face coverings use within close-contact retail consulting environments.

The PROTECT study aims were to identify the factors that influence effective face covering use amongst worker and consumer populations within the retail sector, with specific focus on close-contact consulting environments.

The research findings helped to detect gaps in knowledge, highlight ineffective practices and identify influential factors which affect people’s behaviour with respect to the use of face coverings used in the context of retail consulting environments. Such findings usefully informed sector specific recommendations for the continued safe operation of retail consulting rooms.

Additionally, the findings helped to provide an evidence base for government, industry and the wider community to target educational messaging, risk communication strategies and behaviour change campaigns. Consideration should be given to both workforce and consumer populations, with regards to effective wearing, storage and disposal of face coverings.

Looking forwards, these recommendations will help to ensure the safe operation of retail close contact services for the customers and workers who make use of them.

Research questions addressed by the project

  • What factors affect the wearing of face coverings by workers and members of the public within close contact retail consulting rooms?
  • What behaviours make face coverings more or less effective (what are the common practices and what factors affect performance of these behaviours)?
  • What are the gaps in common knowledge and understanding with respect to the use of face coverings as a means of preventing the transmission of COVID-19?
  • What practices can be shared/lessons can be learned in order to enhance the effectiveness of face coverings practices as a means of preventing the transmission of COVID-19?


A desktop review of published and grey literature was guided by the research questions above, and the findings were used to inform the development of primary data collection tools. Interviews (n=36) with workers and members of the public were conducted via video call, exploring behaviours concerning face covering use and factors that might influence facemask use within a retail consulting environment. An online survey enabled validation of interviews findings with a sample of 379 participants.

Interviews were transcribed and the data analysed thematically within NVivo. Survey data was statistically analysed, with free text responses subject to thematic analysis and coding of key themes. The project method, findings and implications/recommendations are detailed within the published report.

Project Team

Project lead: Rebecca Canham, Institute of Occupational Medicine.

Contributing researchers: Alice Smith, Katie Clabon, Karen Galea, Hilary Cowie.