Many people are still working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but many others have been deemed essential workers. These essential workers need to be physically present at their place of work, putting them at high risk of contracting the virus.
The personal protective equipment that essential workers should be provided with differs from job to job. A janitorial worker’s PPE is not the same as a healthcare worker’s PPE, since the contaminants they come into contact with are different.
Here are the different types of personal protective equipment available and the circumstances under which they’re used.
The COVID-19 virus is transmitted primarily through virus particles on the hand. The CDC recommends washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least twenty seconds each time to mitigate this risk.
Hand protection, therefore, is extremely important for all essential workers, no matter which sector they work in. But it’s important to note that every type of glove is designed for specific purposes:
- Disposable powdered or un-powdered latex glovesare used by healthcare workers who work with biological hazards, including human blood and blood-borne pathogens.
- Disposable nitrile glovesare used by food prep workers in restaurants, since they’re resistant to chemical and biological splash hazards.
- Disposable vinyl gloves provide the same protection as latex gloves, and can be used by janitorial staff who work with biohazards.
- Chemical resistant gloves come in a range of strengths and are used by employees who work with corrosive materials.
Different kinds of lab coats and barrier protection are used under different circumstances. These include:
- Traditional cotton-polyester or cotton lab coats that protect the skin from non-hazardous chemicals and dirt.
- Flame-resistant cotton or Nomex lab coats are used by lab employees who work with air or water reactive chemicals and materials that could potentially explode.
- Barrier protection is typically made of polyester, and is used by healthcare workers who are exposed to infectious materials.
- All janitorial staff should be given full-sleeved uniforms that act as a barrier in the event that they’re exposed to hazardous or infectious materials.
Respiratory protective gear acts as the last line of defense. It’s integral that employees be trained on when and how to use this gear. Respiratory protective equipment needs to be well-fitted in order to be effective, and a workplace hazard assessment needs to be carried out in order to see which kind of gear would be best suited to the task at hand.
- Surgical grade N95 respiratorsoffer maximum protection but are in short supply. These should only be worn by healthcare workers on the frontline against COVID-19.
- Other essential workers can use loose-fitting disposable surgical masks that protect the nose and mouth against airborne pathogens.