As an employer, you have a duty of care towards your employees. And one of your workplace health & safety commitments during the coronavirus pandemic involves supplying personal protective equipment (PPE).
Depending on your industry, some of this may be mandatory. However, during the pandemic you may want to provide equipment to employees to prevent the spread of infection.
You can carry out a workplace risk assessment for COVID-19 to understand, and limit, the risks. Call us on 0800 028 2420 for support through that procedure.
And you can also read this guide for guidance on using PPE in your workplace.
What is personal protective equipment?
PPE is equipment that an employee wears, or holds, to reduce risks from health & safety hazards. For protection during the pandemic, this typically includes gloves, facemasks, and full-face shields Use of this equipment is dependent on the environment and is not required for most environments.
The health & safety law legislating PPE is the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
It seeks to make sure that, if your business can’t control workplace hazards, you must identify the risks and as a last resort, use PPE. This is the last option in the hierarchy of controls.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 also states it’s your duty as an employer to provide the equipment free of charge.
Personal protective equipment at work for coronavirus directly aims to reduce the transmission or risk of infection.
And while social distancing at work can go a long way to limiting the risks your workforce faces, with the addition of PPE you can further decrease the chances of infection spreading.
However, you can’t completely remove all risks from your working environment. So, you should be aware of the possibility of the virus spreading and have procedures in place should a staff member become infected.
So, why should you wear personal protective equipment? Well, it helps to protect your employees from the health & safety risks coronavirus poses.
PPE can’t remove all the associated hazards, but it can help to reduce the potential for infection. If your business is in a customer-facing environment, it can also limit the risk to the public.
There are COVID-19 PPE types and rationale for their use. It is only recommended for COVID under specific circumstances. Below is a list of the equipment currently available--and commonly in use:
- Facemasks: Level 2 or Level 3 face masks may be used within Healthcare to reduce the risk of infection. These should be used by those who would normally use them within their working environment, such as construction but additional these are now being used within Healthcare environments where Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP’s) are being used.
- Disposable gloves: Gloves should be sessional i.e. worn for a specific task. i.e. providing care within healthcare environments. If worn longer, they will just be the same as unwashed hands and spread virus particles. Good hand hygiene is a better solution for most businesses.
- Isolation gowns: For use, primarily, in healthcare environments. This health & safety item can help to prevent virus particles and aerosol droplets from clinging to an individual’s clothes. Contact with fluids can increase transmission of the virus.
- Face shields: A shield provides a physical barrier from airborne droplets, these should be worn to close contact working e.g. face to face. They do not stop transmission of airborne virus particles as they can go around the shield.
If a risk assessment identifies there is a specific risk that cannot be suitably controlled by social distancing, then as a last resort you can look to use PPE to control the risk.
It’s also important to enforce social distancing measures as a primary measure where possible—along with the use of the above types of PPE. But when used, PPE usage must be monitored to ensure it is being used correctly.
And you should improve hygiene in and around your working environment with thorough cleaning processes. Which includes the requirement for staff to regularly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and maintain good hand hygiene throughout their shift/working day.
If you provide employees with PPE, you must train the employee on how to use it correctly. In relation to COVID, this would include how to put on and take off PPE without spreading virus particles. When incorrectly worn and used, this increases the risks to all.
When to use different types of personal protective equipment
This decision depends on the business you have and the industry you work in.
After you perform a coronavirus risk assessment, if you recognise it’s not always possible to maintain social distancing (a two or one+ metre gap), then you can determine the types of PPE you’ll need. However, PPE is no substitute for social distancing measures. The only times you will need PPE is for high risk environments.
Additional mitigating measures are required where social distancing cannot be adhered to, this may perspex screens, reduced contact time etc.
: Personal protective equipment in healthcare settings
As this is an industry that often requires physical contact with service users, it’s important to have PPE precautions in place.
This is so staff, and the service users, limit the risks of transmission in the working environment.
You should also take precautions to ensure visitors to any medical facilities also receive the appropriate protection to prevent the spread of infection.
There’s a certain set of PPE you should use in this environment. Similarly, with personal protective equipment in social care settings. This includes:
- Disposable respirators.
- Face coverings.
- Isolation gowns.
- Face shields.
It’s your duty of care as an employer to protect your frontline staff. As many will potentially have underlying health conditions or are within at risk groups such as BAME. It’s essential to make sure they receive all appropriate protection to limit the risks of catching coronavirus.
Personal protective equipment in the health and beauty sector
As this industry also requires customer-facing elements and physical contact, it’s essential to use PPE in this working environment, this will include:
- Face shields.
A thorough hygiene routine is also essential to limit the risk of virus particles spreading between individuals and customers.
You should also look to dispose of equipment once it’s used. A single-use item policy is a good practice in the current pandemic crisis.
Need our help?
If you need assistance with any of your workplace health & safety requirements during coronavirus, get in touch for further support: 0800 028 2420.