What to Look for When Purchasing PPE for Employees

Female server wearing a face mask while holding plates of food.
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Various public officials, including Dr. Andrew Faucci, the head of NIAID, have encouraged individuals to wear face masks while in public. Face masks can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, particularly among asymptomatic people. Other agencies are starting to recommend the regular use of disposable gloves, hand disinfectant and even face shields.

There’s a lot of information out there and a lot of options. How can you tell what to look for when purchasing masks and other PPE?

PPE at Work

Two office workers wearing masks while in close proximity.
Work face masks are important when walking around the office.

Personal protective equipment helps safeguard employees who cannot work from home. However, there are several considerations when selecting face masks, body gowns and gloves for yourself or your business.

According to OSHA, you should follow these guidelines:

  • Choose PPE based on the hazard to employees.
  • Ensure that PPE fits each employee properly.
  • Employees should wear PPE consistently.
  • PPE should be regularly inspected.
  • Reusable PPE must be properly stored, cleaned or discarded.

Familiarize yourself with the specific regulations for your industry to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That way, you can ensure the products you choose comply with the applicable standards.

Some medical waste providers consult with businesses that want to better understand their PPE needs.

Look for Quality and Simplicity

Spend the money to keep your employees safe. Sturdy PPE equipment may prevent contamination and death. Plus, your business could face liability if you don’t provide proper protection.

Face masks, gloves and other PPEs have to hold up under normal work conditions. Consider extended-length gloves that won’t get in the way while employees perform their duties.

Follow the standards set for your industry, such as NIOSH-approved N95, or the recently allowed alternative, K95 filtering respirators.

Female construction worker wearing a face mask while outdoors.
Wear a face mask when outdoors if maintaining proper physical distancing isn’t guaranteed.

Grab a 50-Pack of Disposable Face Masks from Salusen and keep your workers protected.

Train Your Employees

The simpler you make the requirements, the more likely employees are to follow them. After you buy the necessary PPE to protect employees, train them on how to wear, remove and store it.

Guidelines for Personal PPE Selection

Ultimately, PPE is worn by individuals, and you can’t take a “one size fits all” approach. For example, face masks for children must be much smaller to fit over the mouth and nose properly. Whether purchasing face masks for home use or your business, use the following guidelines.

Consider whether the garment lets you move properly while performing everyday tasks, such as shopping. Protective gowns should not fit too tight, or they will tear. If the garment is too big, it can catch on corners and cause injuries. Overall, the wearer needs to retain a wide range of motion. It won’t do anyone much good to avoid the coronavirus if they’re injured due to a poor choice of PPE.

Flexibility

Weight and flexibility impact the effectiveness of the PPE. Heavy PPE can fatigue the wearer, and PPE that constrains the wearer restricts their range of motion. Lightweight protective gear offers numerous advantages but often cannot be recycled, which can be an issue when supplies run short. Lightweight fabrics should be able to withstand daily wear and tear and the cleaning and recycling process, if applicable. Be prepared to accommodate larger and smaller frames.

Heat Stress

Comfort plays a large role in how effectively employees can perform, especially under stress. Any garments you choose should allow plenty of airflow to avoid the build-up of heat, which causes perspiration and discomfort. Your employees will value comfort as highly as the protective qualities of the garment. The usability of any PPE hinges on its wearability. If someone is hot, restricted or feels like they cannot move properly, they are unlikely to wear the garments as instructed. Protective clothing adds a barrier but should allow for natural cooling, particularly in humid environments.

Male factory worker wearing disposable isolation suit, hair net, N95 face mask and putting on disposable nitrile gloves.
Some workers are used to wearing PPE every day; others may need proper training.

Design & Deliverability

The design of protective gear includes the material and all the wearability issues mentioned above. Choose a reliable supplier who delivers the PPE you order in a timely fashion. That way, if you have to order special equipment to ensure the comfort of individual workers, it’s not a big issue.

Health and safety noncompliance carries heavy penalties. Be familiar with the regulations in your area so you can keep your family and employees safe during these unusual times.

Before you choose cloth masks to protect your employees, make sure you know the proper way to wear and care for them. A little prep work on your part can help safeguard your employees – and thus, your clientele – and give you peace of mind.

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