For effective prevention and control of infectious diseases that are being treated in health care facilities, personal protective equipment (PPE) is very important. PPE refers to the specialized clothing and gear that employees use to prevent infections and diseases as they perform their duty at workplace.
The US regulatory authority, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) makes it mandatory for employers to provide suitable PPE to its employees. Additionally, the employers must ensure that the PPE is disposed of properly if it is meant for single-use. If it is reusable, they must ensure that it is properly disinfected, washed and stored after being used. CDC also issues guidelines as to what kind of PPE employers must provide in what situations.
There are different types of PPE that provide protection for different parts of body from different kinds of infectious exposures. These include infectious touch, droplets, contaminated surfaces, blood and any other body fluid. Here are the common types of PPE used in health care settings.
Paramedical staff in all the hospitals in the US is required to wear gown that protects his clothing and overall body from potential hazard of infection. Gowns provide protection against various levels of risk ranging from low to high risk.
Masks prevent airborne particles from entering the body through mouth and nose. Paramedical staff is required to use the surgical and respirator masks. Surgical masks are loose fitting mask that cover nose, mouth and chin. These are disposable masks that must be disposed off after single use. Respirators on the other hand are reusable masks that protect the respiratory tract from infectious particles. They filter out the air that wearer breathes minimizing the risk of infection.
Gloves protect the wearer from the risk of infection as they perform medical procedures and examinations. There are various types of gloves including examination gloves, surgical gloves and medical gloves. These gloves must pass the criteria set by FDA so that they function effectively. These tests include tear resistance, leak resistance and biocompatibility. Gloves are intended for single use hence they must be disposed-off properly after use.
CDC recommends the usage of goggles to prevent the spread of infectious diseases through eyes. However, it must be ensured that the goggles do not hinder eye vision in any way. They must be adjustable to give a tight fit to ensure sufficient protection. Eye protection must come with suitable comfort as the wearer has to wear them for long hours most likely.
Face shields are most effective protective gear as they cover the whole of face and its sides. When donning the face shield make sure no parts of face are left uncovered by bending forward the shield with both hands till you get the right fit.
The type of exposure determines what type of PPE will be used in a certain environment. Along with that, durability of PPE is another factor that determines its usefulness in a particular environment. It is highly recommended that employees get sufficient training with regard to the use of PPE. Some PPE such as respirators require specific steps and procedures to don and doff them. It is very important so as to provide the required protection against the infections. Along with that, some PPE such as respirators and face shields require accurate fit to provide protection. Respirators are so fit-sensitive that the wearers are required to perform fit-test before using them. It is because their functionality depends on how well they fit with the user.