There have been a lot of new terms added to our lexicon since March and sometimes it can get confusing. It’s one thing to know what something is, but how do we properly use it? We’d like to shed some light on one of the things we hear a lot about these days - PPE or Personal Protective Equipment. As an employer, you must take every precaution to protect your employees from injury and that includes infectious diseases.
In the early days of the pandemic, there were concerns that doctors, nurses and medical personnel did not have enough or the proper PPE. Fortunately, those days seem to be behind us but many businesses are left wondering about PPE and what their responsibilities are for their employees.
We must always give priority to healthcare workers but there are some situations where medical masks may be an appropriate choice to protect employees.For example, if your employee is working with or providing services to someone who cannot wear a face covering or when physical distancing is not possible.
Other PPE like gowns, gloves or facial protection should be considered after evaluating risk of exposure. (For more on using gloves see our article To Glove or Not To Glove) Management should consider the risks associated with specific activities your staff or clients will be participating in as well as possible sources of contamination.
Face shields like this one will provide protection, specifically to eyes, nose and mouth. This 2014 study concluded that the face shield reduced exposure to an influenza-infused aerosol by 96% immediately after a cough. However, because the face shield is open at the bottom, the Centre for Disease Control recommends wearing it in conjunction with a mask.
Gowns should be used when an employee is expected to come into contact with blood or bodily fluids or when caring for a patient with contact precautions. Employees should be properly instructed in how to put the gown on, take it off and appropriate disposal.
There are some environments which might dictate a clear, plastic mask. Some young children, those with learning disabilities or hearing impairments may benefit from or require a mask that allows your mouth to be seen.
Many businesses are providing disposable masks to the customers and clients if they don’t have one with them. These standard face coverings can be offered at the entrance along with hand sanitizer. This not only protects your customers but also your employees.
Employees should always be trained on how to use the PPE you expect them to use. Improper use or disposal can actually increase the risk of infection, so education and diligence is key.
There are a number of things employers can do, in addition to PPE to help reduce the risk of their staff.
- Additional cleaning - particularly high-touch surfaces
- Allow for physical distancing between co-workers
- Provide convenient hand sanitizing stations and allow opportunities for workers to wash their hands with soap and water
- Stagger break time to avoid large groups
- Get creative with outdoor spaces - take your staff meeting outside!
- When possible, allow employees to work from home
As you navigate the best way to keep your business and your employees healthy, our MCL Team is ready to assist you with any questions you may have about PPE and beyond. Contact us today to set up your account.