PPE is any form of equipment that will protect its user against health or safety risks whilst at work, which includes potential cross-infection. Making the workplace safe means that organisations are responsible for providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage people to work safely and responsibly, including using PPE to protect themselves whilst working with individuals who are known to be or who are potentially unwell.
Organisations should be clear about when PPE is required and never deviate from the rules, for example telling a nurse that she needn’t wear gloves because the procedure will ‘only take a few seconds’ or telling a care assistant that he needn’t get an apron because ‘the individual’s symptoms have subsided’.
Deviation from the rules about PPE places everyone at risk, not just the employee who has not used PPE at all or has not used it correctly.
Using PPE in the workplace
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a vital part of ensuring that employees are not exposed to potentially harmful bacteria whilst carrying out their role. It should be worn on any occasion where there is a possibility that they may come into contact with body fluids, and this can occur with any form of contact with an individual.
Employers are legally required to provide PPE to all employees who will need it when carrying out their role.
Gloves should be put on before any task where there may be contact with body fluid. They must then be removed immediately upon its completion. Employees should ensure that individuals are not allergic to latex before assisting with any procedure that involves direct contact with an individual, as most gloves that are used in a healthcare setting are made from this material and an alternative material must be made available by the employer.
These are worn to prevent the transmission of infection via flooring. They are used most in a clinical environment when employees are working with individuals who have had surgical procedures or those who may have been placed in isolation.
Aprons, like gloves, should be worn when carrying out any task where there is a possibility of coming into contact with body fluids. They should be removed immediately after the task has been completed and disposed of in the correct manner, in line with official guidance.
Masks or eye protectors
Although it is less common that an employee would need to use some form of face protection, this is important when working with an individual who may have some form of infection, or where there is the possibility that the employee’s face or eyes may be splashed with some form of body fluid.
Effective cleaning procedures in the workplace
Every setting will have slightly different cleaning procedures, but most will adhere to something like the following:
Only staff who are trained to use specific pieces of equipment and potentially dangerous chemicals should use them and no one else, as not only does this increase the risk of cross-infection but the risk to safety in general as well.
Rules in settings will now likely include that they should be cleaned more frequently, especially in a setting where a case of COVID-19 has been identified. This may result in a deep clean and a setting closing temporarily whilst this takes place.