As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country and the world, more and more essential workers who are still engaging with the public are being asked to utilize personal protective equipment in their daily lives. While PPE may seem a bit excessive at the moment, the use of such protective equipment has been shown to save lives by limiting the spread of infection during everyday tasks.

To properly protect individuals from the possibility of infection, it is important to understand the elements of PPE, as well as the guidelines on how to put PPE on and remove it safely.

Primer on COVID-19

COVID-19 is the designated name for the respiratory disease that is caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Due to COVID-19 being a novel virus, this particular coronavirus poses a risk to the entire world population – as nobody has experience being infected and thus gained any kind of immunity. Studies from hospitalizations have shown that a small percentage who is infected may require hospitalization that can lead to death. Due to the high infection rate of COVID-19, it is important that proper protective gear is used at all times.

It is highly likely that individuals who come into contact with the public – such as healthcare and front-line first responders – will engage individuals or materials that have been exposed to the coronavirus. In order to keep themselves and others protected from the spread of infection, the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is vitally important.

Guidelines for Proper Use of PPE

Due to the high infection rate and the danger posed by the novel coronavirus, It is important to have a full list of the recommended personal protective equipment as well as clear guidance on how to properly wear, utilize, and dispose of these articles after each use. The CDC and local health authorities across the country have developed specific guidance on the PPE recommended, which includes:

  • Attach the gown to your person. The gown provides full-body protection from the infection that may travel in respiratory droplets from infected individuals or droplets that are airborne. 

It may be necessary to have another individual help you put the gown on and tie it properly in the back so that the ties do not interfere with any other pieces of PPE or your clothing.

  • Place the protective mask over your face in the proper manner. The mask should be a NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (i.e., N-95 or higher-level respirator). Ensure that the mask completely covers your mouth and nose, and the straps attach behind your ears.
  • Place protective goggles over your eyes. Ensure that the goggles completely cover your eyes, preventing respiratory droplets from infiltrating the fronts of the goggles, the bridge of the nose, or near the corners of your eyes. 
  • Wear nitrile protective gloves. The gloves will go on and over your sleeves to create a seamless barrier.

Removal of PPE

Once you are finished interacting with an individual or material that is hazardous, it is important to remove the PPE in such a way as to prevent any infected material from coming into contact with your skin, hands, or face. When removing PPE, make sure to remove the articles in this order:

Goggles – Mask – Gown – Gloves

This will ensure that your bare hands do not come into contact with any potentially compromised materiels. All PPE should be placed into a specially-marked biohazard waste bag and disposed of in a proper biohazard receptacle. Once you have removed the PPE, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly for twenty seconds to ensure that your hands are clean.

Using PPE Saves Lives

With the high infection rate and the danger posed by the novel coronavirus, extra precautions must be taken to ensure that individuals and the public remain protected and healthy. While the use of PPE may seem excessive, the proper use of these articles has been proven to mitigate and prevent infection from COVID-19, as well as save the lives of both personnel and those they serve. By taking the time to properly train and implement the use of all PPE, you can keep yourself and others safe during this crisis.