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April 9, 2020
Personal protective equipment (PPE) are a large group of products that are designed with the specific purpose to protect the wearer from all sorts of hazards, ranging from construction- to medical-related industries. Everything from a safety helmet and no-slip footwear to latex-free surgical gowns and facepiece respirators (masks) are included in this group.
PPE is used, for instance, to prevent medical staff and health care providers from exposure to infectious material. And each protective item acts as a barrier to stop the spread of infectious diseases, germs, and viruses. Infectious material can be transmitted in the form of droplets, airborne, or occur through direct physical contact.
- Face shields
- Goggles and Glasses
- Head Covers
- Shoe Covers
Face shields protect the face from infectious droplets and contact with hazardous material. Without a face shield, infectious materials can gain access through mucous membranes, like those in the mouth, eyes, and nose. Medical staff will wear a face shield when body fluids have the potential to get in the face. This could happen when a healthcare provider is cleaning an open wound.
Gloves cover the hands and wrists, protecting the skin from contact and droplet exposure. Gloves are probably the most widely used type of PPE. Healthcare workers routinely use gloves when administering care close to the skin. Gloves will protect the patient, as well as the person administering care, from spreading germs via skin-to-skin contact.
GOGGLES & GLASSES
Goggles and glasses protect the eyes from infectious droplets. Goggles are worn around the eyes, while protective glasses only cover the front and sides of the eyes. This is to prevent a potentially contaminated substance from entering the eyes.
Gowns protect clothing and skin from droplets and contact with infectious material. Some are placed over clothing and tied in the back, adequately covering the arms and torso and part of the legs. Others are more like a long drape or suit that covers most of the body. If a healthcare provider is wearing a gown, they are expecting to be in close contact with infectious material.
When airborne exposure or sprays are anticipated, head covers (bonnets) protect the hair and scalp from possible contact with infectious material. Health workers should wear a head cover that covers both the head and the neck. Ideally, the head cover should be separate from the gown.
Masks protect the nasal and oral mucosa membranes from splashes and droplets
of infectious material. A mask should be comfortable to wear. So you shouldn’t see redness or deep lines in your face as a result of wearing your mask. If you see an imprint in your skin after removing a mask, you should loosen your mask. Men should avoid growing beards as the facial hair could interfere with the seal.
Respirators are a personal protective device worn on the face, that cover the nose and mouth. They’re specifically designed to provide respiratory protection by forming a tight seal against a wearer’s skin. Respirators vary in their level of protection and efficiency to filter out airborne particles such as dust, pathogens, gases, or vapors, or chemical splash.
Shoe Covers provide a barrier against possible exposure to airborne organisms or contact with a contaminated environment. Try not to touch the floor or other areas with your hands while putting the shoe covers on. Remember to remove them whenever you leave the room.
WHO REGULATES PPE?
To maintain safety, a country might designate a regulating body – or bodies – that will developand maintain standards for the design, construction and distribution of PPE. Or a country might use the standards set forth by several organizations – private or otherwise. In the U.S., for example, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is a federal body that enforces regulations regarding personal protective equipment to most workers in the United States. That said, many of OSHA’s requirements align with the standards for eye, face, and head protection that’s been set by American National Standards Institute, a private non-profit organization.
Some organizations specialize in certain categories of PPE standards. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has set several codes regarding personal protective equipment used in fire protection, including breathing apparatuses. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has developed standards to address infectious diseases in healthcare. And the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) will set forth PPE regulations for equipment used as medical device, like medical gloves and surgical masks.