By now, you might have considered reopening your office, or some of you might have already reopened your office following recommended guidelines. Employee wellness and safety are at the core of welcoming employees back to offices and must be the first thing organizations should consider as they plan to reopen the workplace.
As such, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) plays a key role in keeping employees safe in the offices.
But, what exactly is PPE? When do you need it? How can you choose the right PPE? And how can you effectively use it?
Using PPE such as masks, sanitizer and gloves at offices is the new normal to keep employees safe. In this blog, we’ll discuss everything organizations need to know about PPE – from understanding its use to effectively using it in your workplace.
What is PPE?
Traditionally focused on specific industries like healthcare, food service and construction where the chances of transferring germs is high, today the use of PPE has widened to the general public due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Government and regulatory authorities have made PPE as an important tool to combat the spread of disease.
According to the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PPE “refers to protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.”
What is included in PPE?
The Government of Canada defines “Personal protective equipment (PPE) are items worn to provide a barrier to help prevent potential exposure to infectious disease. These items include gloves, gowns, masks and respirators, eye protection, goggles, face shields, masks with visor attachment.”
Masks could be surgical, N-95 masks, or non-medical masks. Surgical masks protect you from large droplets and splattered body fluids while N-95 masks protect you from dust, fumes and mists. Non-medical masks are recommended to be worn by the general population (non-medical use) to prevent the spread of the virus.
Respirators protect you from high infectious airborne germs by filtering the air you breathe. There are different types of respirators like half-mask respirators, full mask respirators, respirator cartridges. They purify air, protecting against a variety of particulates, vapors, dust, mists and fumes.
Gloves are used to protect your hands when handling dirty items and potentially touching body fluids. There are different types of gloves like latex or nitrile gloves, chemical resistant gloves and insulated gloves.
Goggles protect your eyes from the risk of exposure to chemical splashes, laser radiation, and flying debris. Depending on your requirement, you can use four types of goggles that include general safety goggles, laser safety goggles, chemical splash goggles and impact goggles.
Gowns are used to protect your body from potential carrying the germs to other places. It also helps to keep you clean and eliminates the chances for your body to get exposed to fluids and dirty items.
Head Covering / Shoe Covering is used in areas where there is a higher risk of being exposed to body fluids like in an operation room. You might have seen doctors wearing them while performing surgery.
Additionally, equipment such as hand sanitizers and thermometers are effective in fighting against the COVID-19 outbreak. Not traditional PPE kits, but these solutions are as important as the other aforementioned equipment.
Thermometer guns and other similar infrared devices can help measure body temperature from a bit distance without physical contact. Although it doesn’t detect COVID-19, it works as an indicator that makes you aware if you need further investigation.
Alcohol-based Sanitizers can help prevent the transfer of viruses and bacteria from one person to another if used properly. Germs generally enter the body via the mouth, eyes, nose, etc and keeping hands clean by washing or using a sanitizer prevents the germs from entering the body.
As washing hands regularly isn’t possible when you are outside, sanitizers are an effective solution to kill germs and protect the skin.
Why should you use it?
If you are an organization planning to reopen the workplace, PPE should be an essential part of your strategy. Regulatory authorities have provided guidelines on maintaining a safe and healthy environment for employees and have recommended the use of PPE.
It is imperative for employers to take the responsibility of the safety of their employees and provide the correct PPE in accordance with the guidelines they are given. While the employer must ensure their employees are equipped and trained to use PPE, it’s employees’ responsibility to properly use it.
How to choose the right PPE for your organization
The first step is to analyze what items your workforce needs. Some work environments may only require minimal protective measures, such as gloves and masks, while others might need more extensive PPE practices.
However, regardless of the work environment, you shouldn’t just be thinking in terms of achieving the government regulations but also as part of your duty of creating a safe work environment that will ensure the safety and security of your employees.
Ask yourself the following questions to understand which employees specifically need PPE and what type of risk they need protection from.
- Who is exposed to risk in your workplace and what is the risk?
- How long and how often are they at risk?
- How severe is the level of risk?
- Do all my employees need a basic PPE kit?
Involve some of your employees and approach practically to go through these risks. After all, the initial assessment should serve as the basis for creating a safe work environment. After you are aware of your risks you will need to protect against, you need to consider some factors before investing in it.
Factors like climate conditions, the industry you work in, pricing and quality, sizing, and proper fit of the equipment shouldn’t be ignored.
You should also consider if your vendor provides you product and user support. One of the main challenges for any organization is user adoption, so make sure your vendor provides you with training and other product and user-related support.
Finally, you should also consider the accessibility and availability of the product. Make sure the vendor you have chosen moves the products easily at your workplace. Also, ensure the product is approved by all regulatory authorities.
How to effectively use PPE?
Once you have invested in PPE, the question arises as to how you can effectively use it. There are a few factors you need to consider and plan to make the most out of your investment.
Like I mentioned earlier, user training is something you need to prioritize. Ask your vendor to properly train your employees on the best practices of using the equipment.
Equally important is to ensure your employees’ level of comfort to wear that equipment. People like to be comfortable while working and if there is discomfort, work morale drops, while the chance for careless accidents increases exponentially.
So before the product is delivered to you, you should ask your vendor to conduct fitting sessions where your employees take measurements to get their right fit.
Like any other equipment, PPE has its life. You should be aware when it’s time to replace the existing one and replace it with a new one. Consider the maximum service time of the PPE along with monitoring the damage and condition of the equipment. The changes in safety risk is higher if you ignore his aspect.
Investment in PPE should be a top priority to organizations planning to reopen offices in the upcoming days. Now that you are aware of what includes in PPE, why you need PPE, how to choose the right PPE, and how to effectively use it, you are now ready to make an informed and responsible decision for equipping your employees.
However, if you still need guidance or suggestions in making the right decision, our team at Kibog would be happy to help you. Drop us an email at email@example.com and let us know how we can help you with your workplace safety.