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Guidelines for Wearing PPE in Healthcare Settings

Between 2021 and 2031, healthcare employment should increase by 13%. This phenomenal growth is higher than many other industries and will provide nearly two million jobs.

Healthcare workers frequently encounter pathogens in the workplace, putting themselves and others at risk for spreading diseases. PPE in healthcare helps protect employees and patients, ensuring a healthier work environment and sheltering communities.

But how do you know what type of PPE is right for your healthcare setting and what are the regulations behind using it properly? Small things like accessibility and adequate disposal are essential to PPE compliance. In our complete guide, we will review what PPE is, how to use it, and who governs proper PPE usage.

What Is PPE?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is protective clothing or equipment that helps prevent injury and/or illness. Many industries have used PPE regularly since the COVID-19 virus, with the most common form being facemasks. The most prevalent setting where you will find PPE is in healthcare.

Properly adhering to PPE guidelines can prevent the spread of illnesses or diseases by healthcare workers. It can also protect patients and individuals at high risk of contracting illnesses since PPE acts as a barrier against infections.

PPE in Healthcare

Experts recommend using PPE when healthcare workers are exposed to blood or bodily fluids. Additionally, PPE is recommended for airborne or droplet viruses and illnesses. The World Health Organization outlines three main components of PPE in healthcare:

  1. Design
  2. Material
  3. Use

The design includes protection and functionality. You need PPE that allows you to see and move unrestricted while protecting yourself and others.

The materials used will impact how long PPE can be exposed to pathogens, its disinfectant period, and how it responds to varying climates. Lastly, "use" includes minimizing the steps it takes to don and doff PPE, including disposal.

PPE Guidelines in Healthcare

Healthcare compliance with PPE starts with understanding the appropriate type of PPE and how to remove and dispose of it properly. Here are the primary types of PPE used in healthcare settings:

  • Facemasks
  • Gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Gowns

Shoe covers and specialized clothing might also be indicated if you are exposed to certain chemotherapy drugs or radiation. Typically, gloves are recommended for nearly every healthcare encounter with a patient. It is a simple and easy way you can prevent the spread of common germs and protect yourself and others.

Masks help prevent airborne viruses. In the instance of active COVID-19 cases or measles, a respirator is an optimal choice. Eye protection helps combat infectious droplets.

If a person has pneumonia or influenza, these types of protective equipment are the recommended choice. Keep in mind that protective clothing, like gowns, is often used with gloves, eye protection, and facemasks.

Lastly, it is essential that you dispose of PPE properly. Often, PPE is not designed for reuse and comes in disposable forms. Eyewear and other types of equipment can be cleaned and decontaminated for reuse.

However, when PPE comes in contact with bodily fluids or other infections, it must be disposed of. The sequencing for doffing PPE is:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Gown
  • Mask

Typically, used PPE is placed in specific bins that follow infectious medical waste protocols. After disposing of your PPE, you should always perform hand hygiene.

Is PPE Required for Healthcare Compliance?

In short: yes. OSHA enforces PPE guidelines when hazards cannot be removed. Hazards in a healthcare setting can include:

  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Infectious diseases
  • Toxic materials
  • Chemical exposures
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • And more

It is an employer's responsibility to ensure adequate PPE training for all employees. This includes steps such as:

  • PPE program/plan
  • Exposure control
  • Providing adequate and correct PPE
  • Ensuring accessibility for all employees
  • Proper disposal

Additionally, the risks of not wearing PPE correctly also fall on the employer. Training courses can help employers and employees ensure compliance with OSHA regulations and protect patients and workers from harmful exposures.

OSHA-compliant training reviews regulations, types of hazards, how to choose the right PPE, and other employee responsibilities. Some of the medical professionals who can benefit from PPE training are medical doctors, nurses, technicians, allied health professionals, and more.

What Happens If You Don't Properly Wear PPE?

Ultimately, OSHA can enforce a fine or other serious measures against individuals or entities that do not adhere to proper PPE protocols. For example, a serious violation can result in a $1,036 fine at minimum or $14,502 maximum. Repeated non-compliance issues are even more costly.

These fines fluctuate from approximately $10,360 at minimum to $145,027 at maximum. In the healthcare setting, it also places several individuals at risk.

HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are some of the most common bloodborne diseases that affect healthcare workers. Experts discovered that lack of PPE accessibility is one of the primary reasons healthcare workers don't wear proper PPE and increase their exposure to deadly pathogens.

Improper use of PPE also increases infection risks for patients. Healthy workers may unknowingly spread harmful viruses and pathogens through droplets or direct contact.

Start Using PPE Properly

Have you wondered how healthcare works utilize PPE? PPE in healthcare settings is essential for reducing the transmission of viruses and bacteria.

PPE includes knowing which type to wear, how to wear it, and how to dispose of it properly. These steps ensure the safety of employees and patients.

The best way to get started with using PPE properly is through OSHA-approved training courses. Compliance Training Online offers several healthcare courses, including personal protective equipment training. Check out our healthcare courses today to get started!



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