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PPE Only Works When It Is Used Properly

PPE Only Works When It Is Used Properly

In laboratories, medical facilities, and industrial plants, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is commonplace, and organizations often provide training, either internally or from an outside safety training vendor, on its proper usage. But we are living in unusual times. In 2020, because of COVID-19, regular everyday people are now using PPE on a regular basis, both in their personal lives and for their jobs. From my observations, it appears that many of these new on-the-job PPE users may not have had any formal training on how to use it, but PPE only works when it is used properly. 

Recently, while I was standing in line at a retail store customer service desk, I noticed that the employee’s mask was practically falling off her face. When it was about to be my turn, I saw her wipe her nose with her gloved hand. … She wiped her nose with her gloved hand.

This was wrong for so many reasons. First, her mask should have been covering her entire mouth and nose area. But more importantly, when she wiped her nose, she potentially infected herself with whatever contamination was on the gloves, and further contaminated the gloves with whatever germs were in/on her nose.

I am not shy or timid, so I asked her to change her gloves before waiting on me. She rolled her eyes, but complied. I watched as she removed her gloves in manner that contaminated her hands in the process, and then she stuck her contaminated hand into the box of gloves to get a “clean” pair. Obviously, I considered any items she gave me to be contaminated.

As another example, the other day, I saw a man driving down the road with his face mask on his forehead. He appeared to be storing it there until he got to wherever he was going, at which point I presume he would be placing it again on his mouth and nose area. But here’s the problem with that … If that man had been interacting with others earlier, there could very well be contaminated water droplets on his forehead, which are now on the inside of his mask which he will later put onto his mouth and nose again.

These were just a few examples among the scores of examples I see every day. The point is, when using PPE, you constantly need to be aware of potential contamination sources. If you and/or your employees are not using PPE properly, it will not help to protect you, your employees, or your customers. Business owners can benefit from investing in professional training for employees in the proper usage of PPE.

Environmental Standards provides health and safety support in the form of facility auditing, gap assessments, EHS program development and review, and training. Unsure whether your respiratory protection program is compliant? Our team of expert EHS professionals can help. For more information on EHS services we offer, or questions please contact Cody Dye.

Everybody benefits when PPE is used properly.

Paula Beck

Technical Editor