How Effective is PPE Against COVID-19?

While the majority of us stay at home and observe lock-down procedures, some people – key workers, emergency services, and NHS staff – cannot avoid being in an exposure area and the only real option is protection.  But with so many conflicting pieces of information coming from different sources, how can the people that need it be sure that it really protecting them?

Whats the government guidance on PPE?

The Government guidance on PPE is quite clear; the general public should be self-isolating and not in a position where they need PPE, so the issue shouldn’t even arise. However, some sectors of the community – particularly those engaged in healthcare and in direct contact with potentially infected people should routinely be using PPE to protect themselves and prevent the forward transmission of the disease.  From that aspect, PPE is seen as being enormously effective, but must be of the right type and should be used in the correct way.

Which Facemasks?

This is, perhaps, the greatest area of confusion in the current crisis, with many members of the public choosing to wear either commercially-available face masks, or mock-ups made of simple tee-shirts and clothes tied around their faces.   The official line from the WHO, and the UK Government, is that masks should be worn by those in close contact with suspected or recognised coronavirus cases. However, the UK is not advising most people to wear either medical or homemade masks. Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is following medical and scientific advice on their use. 

The official line is that the general public do not need to use facemasks, and they may even increase the chance of infection. There is increasing that there is a high chance that virus particle could go through cloth. Furthermore, problems with moisture from breath could also mean the cloth actually retains the virus. To be effective, a face mask should be at least N95 standard. N95 respirators and surgical masks (face masks) are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.  If possible, masks should reach the more stringent N99 standard.

The masks provided to healthcare professionals should be disposable and subject to a fit test, as outlined by the HSE to ensure that the mask is both secure and offers the best protection. Of course, a mask will only cover the mouth and nose, and ideally should be used together with a clear polymer face shield to prevent the virus entering the body though the yes or being retained on the facial skin.

What Gloves?

The use of gloves is, once again, something that has been misunderstood by the general public and may actually be contributing to the spread of the virus. By wearing latex gloves, people may be touching virus covered areas and then transferring it to other surfaces. The advice on gloves is clear; disposable gloves should be worn by those at risk, while the general public should not use them and wash their hands regularly in line with Government recommendations. Gloves used in healthcare should be one use only and then safely disposed of, with regular hand washing in between.

What other equipment.?

The public usually stop at gloves and masks, but healthcare professionals should consider disposable gowns that cover the entire body from the ankles to the cuffs, and up to the neck.  Ideally, no part of the body should be exposed to make this level of PPE completely effective against infectious diseases such as COVID-19.  Healthcare professionals should also consider disposable aprons too, however the key is to not have any exposed skin, and to renew PPE regularly. 

If you need advice on selecting PPE to complete your works safely, contact Acorn Safety Services today!

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