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What is personal and industrial protective equipment?

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PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) by its Spanish acronym.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is a type of clothing or equipment designed to reduce employees' exposure to chemical, biological and physical hazards when in a workplace. It is used to protect employees when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible to reduce risks to acceptable levels.

Personal protective equipment and its importance

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) hierarchy of controls, personal protective equipment is recommended as the last level of defense to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths, but some companies combine it with others. control measures to guarantee a safe and healthy environment for its workers. These are some of the benefits of wearing protective equipment:

  • prevent unnecessary injuries in the workplace;
  • protect employees from excessive exposure to chemicals;
  • prevent the spread of germs and infectious diseases, including COVID-19;
  • help businesses meet regulatory requirements; and
  • improve employee productivity and efficiency.

4 types of personal protective equipment

However, even the strictest controls will not necessarily eliminate all risks associated with most job tasks and this is where the need for safety equipment must be assessed. A hazard assessment can help identify what specialized personal protective equipment will be required. There are numerous types of workplace safety equipment available depending on the hazard exposure and job conditions. The following are basic personal protective equipment that can help protect employees:

Personal protective equipment Image from Freepik » ProSalud

Face and eye protection

Personal protective equipment at work includes safety glasses and face shields and should be used for tasks that may cause eye damage or vision loss, toxic liquid sprays, splashes, and burns.

Security advice:

  • Check if the safety glasses meet the ANSI Z87.1 eye protection standard.

Respiratory protection

Personal protective equipment at work includes full face respirators, self-contained breathing apparatus, gas masks, N95 respirators, and surgical masks that are used for a task that may cause inhalation of harmful materials to enter the body. This includes harmful gases, chemicals, large droplets, aerosols, splashes or sprays that may contain viruses and bacteria such as COVID-19, viral infections and more.

Security advice:

  • Make sure safety equipment has been properly tested and the employee has received proper training before using one.

Skin and body protection

Personal protective equipment includes the following categories to protect employees from physical hazards:

Head protection

Personal protective equipment includes helmets and shields and should be necessary for tasks that may cause any force or object to fall on the head.

Security advice:

  • Make sure there are no dents or deformities in the housing and that the connections are tight on the inside.

body protection

PPE includes safety vests and suits that can be used for tasks that can cause bodily injury from extreme temperatures, flames and sparks, toxic chemicals, insect bites, and radiation.

Security advice:

  • Make sure they are clean and free of cuts or burns.

Hand protection

Personal protective equipment includes safety gloves and should be used for tasks that may cause burns to the hands and skin, absorption of harmful substances, cuts, fractures or amputations.

Security advice:

  • Make sure the hand protection fits snugly without gaps and is free of cuts, burns, and chemical residue.

foot protection

Personal protective equipment includes knee pads and safety boots and should be used for tasks that may cause serious injury to the feet and legs from falling or rolling objects, hot substances, electrical hazards and slippery surfaces.

Security advice:

  • Make sure the boots have non-slip soles that can protect against compression and impacts.

Fall protection

Personal protective equipment includes safety harnesses and lanyards and should be used strictly for tasks that can cause falls from heights and serious injury or death.

Security advice:

  • Make sure the straps have no tears, deformities or burn marks.

Hearing protection

Personal protective equipment includes earmuffs and earplugs and should be used for tasks that may cause hearing problems and hearing loss.

Security advice:

  • Make sure the device fits snugly in your ear canal.

Personal protective equipment for COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic widely affects the economy, businesses and living standards around the world. The implementation of the use of personal protective elements such as masks and face shields in public areas is mandatory in different countries to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19. However, this protocol does not guarantee that current risks have changed substantially.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established guidelines on the correct way to wear face masks to protect against acquiring or spreading the virus. Here are the dos and don'ts of wearing masks.

Must be doneIt should not be done
Wash or sanitize your hands before putting on the mask Check the mask for damage Make sure the colored side is facing out Cover your mouth, nose and chin and adjust accordingly without leaving gaps on the sides Make sure you can breathe properly while wearing the mask mask Avoid touching the mask while wearing it Wash or disinfect your hands before removing the mask Remove the mask by the strap behind the ears Wash the mask preferably with soap and hot water at least once a day Dispose of the mask properly after its useWear the mask if it is damaged, wet, or dirtyWear a loose-fitting mask. Wear the mask below your nose Wear a mask that is difficult to breathe through Touch the mask while wearing it Take off the mask when talking to other people Share used masks with others. Reuse disposable masks.

The battle against the global pandemic requires frontline leaders, including doctors and nurses, to wear isolation gowns to protect themselves from contracting the virus. This would help decrease the chance of getting sick even if they always interact with COVID-19 patients. Below are CDC guidelines to follow when wearing personal protective equipment:

  • All healthcare workers should receive comprehensive training on personal protective equipment, including its proper use, proper donning and doffing procedures, limitations, maintenance, and disposal.
  • Make sure your gown size choice is appropriate for your body size.
  • Perform hand hygiene before putting on the isolation gown. 
  • Put on a NIOSH-approved or higher quality respirator with a N95 filter mask. 
  • Wear a mask if a respirator is not available. Respirator straps should be placed at the crown of the head (top strap) and the base of the neck (bottom strap). 
  • Perform a user seal check each time you use a respirator. The mask straps should be secured at the crown of your head (upper loop) and the base of your neck (lower loop). If the mask has ties, hook them appropriately around your ears. 
  • Select appropriate eye protection, such as a mask or goggles. 
  • Ensure the correct position of eye protection. It should not affect the seal of the respirator. 
  • Wear gloves, they should cover the cuff (wrist) of the gown. 
  • Before entering the patient area, including the isolation room, personal protective equipment must be used appropriately. 
  • While on duty, personal protective equipment must remain in place and used properly, especially in potentially contaminated areas. 
  • When caring for patients, do not adjust personal protective equipment. For example, do not retie your gown or adjust your respirator or mask. 
  • Personal protective equipment should be removed slowly and deliberately in a sequence to avoid self-contamination. 
  • Make sure that removing gloves does not cause additional hand contamination. 
  • Gloves can be removed using the glove-in-glove or bird beak technique. 
  • When removing your gown, carefully reach across your shoulders and pull the gown down and away from your body. 
  • After removing your gown, always perform hand hygiene. 
  • When removing eye protection, do not touch the front of the face shield or goggles. 
  • When removing respirators or masks, do not touch the front of the respirator or mask. Dispose of face masks properly.
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Jorge Camargo
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