Proactive PPE Safe Disposal during COVID-19
The role of healthcare staff has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, placing them as some of the highest risk for infection of the virus. While the medical community has gone above and beyond in attempts to protect everyone from the virus, the problem with COVID-19 has been that we are learning new things about it almost every week. Doctors, nurses, and employees have a problem with social distancing, as they need to be close to the patients for examination and diagnosis. This makes PPE (personal protection equipment) one of the highest priorities with a focus on safe disposal to avoid contamination. As the country makes attempts to return to work, healthcare workers must step up their game for safe disposal of PPE.
PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
PPE is defined as protective gloves, face shields, clothing, surgical masks, helmets, googles, respirators, and all other equipment that has been designed for protection to the wearer to infection and illness exposure or injury. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) also defines PPE as “anything that works as a barrier between an individual’s skin, mouth, nose or eyes and viral and bacterial infections.”
While every medical organization typically takes pride in the training of their employees regarding PPE, a pandemic condition places a higher priority on ensuring that all staff members are aware of the volatility of COVID-19. Additional reinforcement training on the handling and disposal of PPE can assist in keeping the dangers of the virus as a priority focus. Properly allocated containers for used PPE as well as storage for pickup or disposal should be available for staff members at all times.
COVID-19 PPE Safety and Disposal
Additional guidelines for PPE safety and disposal have been established in both federal and state levels for SARS-type viruses. Most states have not created any additional or enhanced changes to these guidelines, however, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is including the following in their recommendations:
- PPE should be selected based on the results of an employer’s hazard assessment and workers specific job duties.
- When disposable gloves are used, workers should typically use a single pair of nitrile exam gloves. Change gloves if they become torn or visibly contaminated with blood or body fluids.
- When eye protection is needed, use goggles or face shields. Personal eyeglasses are notconsidered adequate eye protection.
- If workers need respirators, they must be used in the context of a comprehensive respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) and includes medical exams, fit testing, and training.
- Surgical masks are not respirators and do not provide the same level of protection to workers as properly-fitted respirators.
- If there are shortages of PPE items, such as respirators or gowns, they should be prioritized for high-hazard activities.
- Workers need respiratory protection when performing or while present for aerosol-generating procedures, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and intubation.
- Workers must be protected against exposure to human blood, body fluids, other potentially infectious materials, and hazardous chemicals, and contaminated environmental surfaces.
- CDC provides strategies for optimizing the supply of PPE, including guidance on extended use and limited reuseof N95 filtering facepiece [sic] respirators (FFRs) and methods for decontaminating and reusing disposable filtering facepiece respirators during crises.
- These guidelines are intended for use in healthcare but may help employers in other sectors optimize their PPE supplies, as well.
- After removing PPE, always wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, if available. Ensure that hand hygiene facilities (e.g., sink or alcohol-based hand rub) are readily available at the point of use (e.g., at or adjacent to the PPE removal area).
- Employers should establish, and ensure workers follow, standard operating procedures for cleaning (including laundering) PPE and items such as uniforms or laboratory coats intended to function as PPE, as well as for maintaining, storing, and disposing of PPE. When PPE is contaminated with human blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials, employers must follow applicable requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) with respect to laundering. OSHA’s Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens (CPL 02-02-069) provide additional information.
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