Healthcare workers have to use personal safety equipment (PPE) in certain situations. Interestingly, however, the past few years have seen an uptick in the use of such equipment in the general public as well.
Clothing equipment, glass or plastic shields, and masks used to protect someone from hazardous chemicals, fumes, or infections are known as PPEs. These include face shields, eye goggles, masks, gowns, and gloves.
Effective use of personal protective equipment ensures workers’ safety. However, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of safety when it comes disease prevention. As the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) grows worldwide, people must educate themselves on its proper use. If the equipment isn’t properly worn, it defeats its purpose.
WHO highlights a number of ways that facilitate restricting the spread of infections, including hand washing, following respiratory protocols (i.e. proper way of coughing in public) and the use of masks or PPE for medical, and professional personnel.
According to recent research, nearly half of the healthcare workers remove personal protective equipment in an improper manner, which increases the likelihood of spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Unfortunately, the risk of disease spread from improper PPE use is likely to be higher for ordinary people who ended up buying the equipment without receiving the training on its proper use.
Moreover, another study found healthcare workers stand risks of contamination due to: PPE malfunction, lack of PPE, improper handling of PPE, or self-contamination when providing care.
On this note, this article will now discuss the proper use of personal protective equipment, so you can prevent the same mishaps from happening that we’ve warned you about.
The Right Way to Use PPE
First aiders should know when and how to use personal protective equipment while working during uncertain times. Here’s how the different types of personal protective equipment should be used so you can ensure adequate protection.
The face mask is a common piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) used to prevent spread of germs and viruses, such as COVID-19. Healthcare workers should wear masks as a safety measure (especially when around infected individuals). Those infected should make sure they are wearing masks to avoid spreading the infection to other people.
Face masks: when to use them
People should wear a mask under different situations, such as:
- To prevent the spread of flu or colds
- To avoid getting infected when around infected people, or when in public, generally
N95 masks and surgical masks are the most widely used face masks.
By wearing a surgical mask, you restrict the spread of the droplets that can escape your mouth or nose, when talking or sneezing, into the atmosphere around you.
The mask also protects the person wearing it from contracting or coming into direct contact with the tiny respiratory droplets. However, N95 respirators are designed specifically for medical personnel performing aerosol-generating procedures.
By regularly washing hands or using alcohol sanitizers, you can substantially reduce the number of pathogens (harmful microorganisms) on the hands.
Therefore, hand hygiene is considered to be one of the most important ways to reduce infection spread. For hand hygiene procedures, use alcohol-based hand rubs (such as 70% ethanol or 70% isopropanol) or wash hands with soap and water.
Sanitizers: when to use them
If you’re unable to wash hands right away, you can use a hand sanitizer. Here are a few scenarios when you should use hand sanitizers:
- Prior to and after eating
- After and before smoking
- After coughs or sneezes
- After using the toilet
- After you’ve come into direct touch with a potentially contaminated surface
Goggles for eyes
Protective eyewear can serve as an effective shield against spray droplets and help prevent the accidental contact with the eyes during washing hands.
Not all circumstances call for eye protection, however, if you’re using eye protection, good hand washing hygiene has to go along with it.
When to wear eye protection
Exposure to someone else’ bodily fluids, like in operation theaters where the tiny droplets could fall into the eyes of the healthcare professional.
Disposable coverall suits
The long-sleeved suits can prevent the airborne droplets from getting onto the wearer’s hands, face, or skin.
A step-by-step guide on donning a protective gown or suit
- Wash hands
- Wear a mask, safety eyewear, and gloves
- Put the PPE suit on
- Zip up
- Pull the hood over your head
- Make sure the suit is securely attached by folding the zipper over the suit
The removal of PPE suits/gowns
- Remove the hood and unzip the suit
- Turn the suit inside-out by gently pulling the suit down
- Remove the suit completely by rolling it down your ankles
- Remove your goggles, gloves, and face mask
- Place the face mask, gloves, and suit inside a biohazard bag
- Dispose carefully
When using reusable goggles, disinfect with disinfectant wipes and wash your hands.
Generally, hand washing with an alcohol-based sanitizer is a more effective means of preventing bacteria from spreading than using gloves.
Furthermore, gloves should not be used as a substitute for frequent hand hygiene procedures. If a person fails to replace and dispose of or clean gloves between performing tasks, germs may get into the gloves, which can then be transmitted to other surfaces.
You may wear hand gloves in different situations according to the risks involved and the health risks involved in the task at hand.
Gloves: When to wear them
- If you don’t have access to soap or water and an alcohol-based sanitizer
- If you are a medical professional
- When disinfecting surfaces
PPE plays an integral part in professional health care. Nurses and other healthcare professionals must get appropriate training to minimize the risk of infection between patients and staff members. Training should be based on the best available evidence, and the team should feel free to challenge controversial norms or practices. The key to infection prevention remains following a proper hand hygiene; health care workers must remember that wearing protective equipment is not in any way supposed to be a substitute for good hand hygiene.