Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is an essential part of any organization’s emergency preparedness strategy. PPE is equipment worn to shield you and others from bacteria, viruses, fluids, and other contaminants. Protecting your staff and clients is of the utmost importance, even once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, so it’s essential to keep different types of PPE on hand.
Even daycare centers, schools, and universities need to reevaluate their PPE procedures and stock levels. Since PPE isn’t just for medical use, your team needs to consider all possible situations in which you’ll need various forms of PPE.
One of the biggest challenges to emerge during the COVID-19 pandemic is maintaining a steady supply of PPE. When many organizations have a spike in usage simultaneously, the supply chain’s resulting strain can cause a critical regional or national shortage.
There are two essential steps organizations can take to maintain their PPE supplies. The first is to have a backup supply on hand for emergencies. The second is to partner with a supplier who understands how to navigate shifting market conditions and maintain the largest inventory possible.
Even if your organization is small, it’s wise to have a supply of PPE stockpiled to last 30 days or more. This allows you to react quickly to a flu outbreak, new COVID-19 strains, or everyday illness concerns without delay.
Different Sizes and Types
Not all PPE is created equal, especially if you’re concerned about durability and water resistance. Some PPE is designed to protect others from your germs and not the other way around.
Surgical masks are a great example of this, as they were originally designed to protect patients from medical providers’ sneezes and coughs. They are great at containing outgoing airborne particles but are less effective at protecting against particles from other people. N95 and KN95 masks provide highly effective respiratory protection against airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns, which includes many bacteria and viruses.
KN95 masks were temporarily approved for use in U.S. healthcare settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since they provide almost identical protection to N95 masks, they remain an excellent choice for other organizations who need to deal with airborne illness concerns.
Deciding When to Use Gloves
Gloves are useful for non-medical uses like art and cleaning, so they’re an essential everyday part of your organization’s supplies. Although federal law is not always specific about situations in which employers are required to provide gloves, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance maintains that employers have an obligation to provide protective gear to employees when faced with hazardous materials or situations at work.
This means that you may be obligated to provide PPE for employees even in basic situations like exposure to harsh cleaning supplies. To make sure you’re legally covered in any situation, it’s best to just keep a supply on hand.
Traditionally, disposable gloves were made of latex, and some organizations still make them available since they are more flexible than nitrile gloves. However, latex allergies are much more common than sensitivities to the chemicals used in manufacturing nitrile gloves. Since nitrile glove technology has improved in recent years, they have become the standard choice for healthcare organizations, first aid kits, and many other uses.
Even if you ultimately decide that latex is most comfortable for everyday use, make sure to keep a supply of nitrile gloves available. Latex allergies can develop at any time, so a staff member could suddenly end up needing nitrile gloves.
Assessing the Need for Medical Gowns
Medical gowns are of particular importance to carry in a variety of types and sizes. There are four main levels of medical gowns certified by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). Level 1, the lightest level, is too thin to protect against fluids adequately and should only be used in extremely low-risk settings.
Moving comfortably is of critical importance to medical gowns, so one-size-fits-all gowns are not an appropriate choice for most healthcare facilities. Gowns that are too small can impede movement, but gowns that are too large can also interfere with mobility or get caught on nearby objects. Even if your small healthcare clinic has staff members who fit into standard gown sizes, make sure to have extra-small or extra-large sizes for visitors or new staff.
Full body suits are uncommon but can be a critical need in some scenarios. These are commonly paired with eye protection and face shields for protection against fluids and airborne particles.
Your organization’s existing supply may need reassessing if the product’s quality is inadequate. Poorly-stitched seams, uncomfortable ear loops, and gloves that don’t flex as they should can end up posing a significant problem for organizations. If masks or gowns don’t fit comfortably, staff are less likely to use them.
Survey your team members about issues they’re having with quality, quantity, fit, and other concerns. This is especially important for healthcare organizations, but educational facilities and any business that regularly interacts with members of the public need to re-examine their PPE needs.
Reacting to New Threats Quickly With the Right PPE Provider
PPE is an everyday essential for first aid, cleaning, and close interaction with individuals who may be ill. To maximize your health and safety, you need to train yourself and your staff on best practices for wearing PPE and make sure it is available at all times.
ICU Productions has risen to the challenge of providing PPE to various organizations, even during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Call our PPE hotline at (323) 970-2532 for more information on our products.