As businesses are starting to reopen and employees are getting back to work, it is important to understand what personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed to protect employees against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Gloves, N95 respirators, surgical masks, and cloth masks are some personal protective equipment that many companies and organizations are starting to put in place for employees to wear. Employers need to make sure these items are needed for their operations. Employers should first perform a hazard assessment of the workplace to identify and determine what PPE is needed.
The employer and employees must follow all OSHA standards and company guidelines when identifying, selecting, maintaining, training, and wearing PPE.
The following are tips to help with utilizing personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- Gloves may not be necessary for you to wear for the job you are going to do, if they are needed then make sure they are worn properly and not used to cross-contaminate yourself and work areas.
- Keep hands away from face.
- Limit the surfaces that are touched.
- Make sure you change gloves when they are torn or heavily contaminated.
- Perform proper hand hygiene once gloves are removed by washing hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available.
- It is important to take off gloves properly, so you do not contaminate yourself:
- Using a gloved hand, grasp the palm are of the other gloved hand and remove the glove.
- Roll the removed glove up into the palm of the gloved hand.
- Slide fingers of ungloved hand under the remaining glove at the wrist and remove the glove turning it inside out, trapping the other glove inside the glove you are removing.
- Grasp the inside part of the glove and discard into a biohazard container.
N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator
- N95 respirators are used to protect employees from both airborne and fluid hazards such as splashes or sprays. If available, use a face shield over an N95 respirator for added protection and to try prolonging the use of the respirator (due to low supply).
- Use NIOSH approved N95 respirators.
- The respirator must fit snugly against the user’s face to ensure there are no gaps between the user’s skin and the seal of the respirator.
- The respirator should filter out 95% of the particles in the air that passes through it.
- Make sure employees are properly trained over the proper use, putting on, and taking off of the N95 respirator.
- Here are tips to putting on and taking off an N95 respirator:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before putting on and taking off the respirator.
- Inspect the respirator for damage and if damaged, Do Not Use. Replace with a new one.
- Make sure facial hair, hair, jewelry, glasses, or other items do not prevent proper placement and come between your face and respirator.
- Make sure you are complying with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard and all manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Putting On:
- Position the respirator in your hands, nose piece should be at your fingertips.
- Cup the respirator in your hand around your face. The headbands should hang below your hand. Hold the respirator under your chin with the nosepiece up.
- Position the bottom strap over your head and around the neck below the ears.
- Position the top strap over your head and let it rest at the top back part of your head. A single strap should go over your head and rest at the top back part of your head.
- Place fingertips with both hands over the metal nose clip. Slide and push down metal clip forming a seal around the nose.
- Check the seal by placing both hands over the respirator, take a quick breath in, and exhale. Make sure there is not any leakage. If air leakage, then re-adjust straps and nosepiece. If you cannot get a proper seal, then ask for help or try a different size or model if available.
- Do not touch the front of the respirator.
- Remove by pulling the bottom strap over the head, followed by the top strap.
- Make sure you do not touch the respirator.
- Discard and Wash Your Hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer until soap and water is available.
Surgical and Cloth Masks
- Surgical and cloth masks help protect against large-particle droplets, splashes, and sprays, but offer limited to no protection against small airborne particles.
- The CDC recommends wearing a face-covering in public settings where other social distancing measures may be difficult to maintain.
- A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable mask that creates a physical barrier for your mouth and nose from a possible contaminated environment.
- A cloth mask can be made and worn by employees.
- The CDC has information on quick and easy steps to make sew and no-sew cloth masks.
- Here are some tips on wearing surgical or cloth masks/face coverings:
- Make sure they fit snugly but comfortable against the face.
- Secure with ties or ear loops.
- Make sure you can breathe without restriction.
- Surgical masks are generally disposable after use, but shortages may cause them to be reused multiple times. Cloth masks can be and should be laundered.
- Here are some tips to putting on and taking off a surgical and cloth mask:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before putting on and taking off the mask.
- Inspect the mask for damage or contamination and if found, Do Not Use. Replace with a new one or launder.
- Putting on:
- Grasp the ties or ear loops of the mask with your hands and place loops over ears or secure the ties in the middle of the head and neck.
- Fit the flexible band to the nose bridge and push down to create less of an opening between the mask and skin. (You will not be able to create an airtight seal.)
- Make sure the bottom part of the mask fits under the face and chin for a snug fit.
- Do not touch the front of the mask when removing.
- Remove by untying the straps or grasping the ear loops. Make sure you do not touch the front of the mask.
- Discard (if disposable) or launder for a cloth mask.
- Make sure to Wash Your Hands or use a hand sanitizer (if hand washing is not available) after removal.