Hospital transmission of pandemic respiratory infectious diseases e.g. SARS and H1N1 influenza, can be minimised by limiting the role of the healthcare worker as a vector for disease. Recommended infection prevention and control (IPC) measures include the use of a protective mask for respiratory infections; however, research suggests that clinical staff demonstrate sub-optimal compliance with appropriate mask use. Emergency department (ED) staff frequently encounter infectious patients and therefore should routinely comply with IPC practices. An understanding of the routine use of masks in the ED context can help inform policy and pandemic planning.