Usage and Limitations of Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a vital part of the supply chain for many facilities, even ones that aren’t in healthcare. PPE is a broad term that includes everything from gloves to safety glasses, so construction workers, custodians, and even artists may use various types of PPE to protect themselves from injuries and illnesses.

There are usually various versions available for each type of PPE, including different materials, sizes, and thicknesses. The usages and limitations of PPE can vary even within the same facility since surgeries and blood draws have different needs than routine patient check-ups.

Gloves and Gowns

The two primary materials used in gloves intended as PPE are nitrile and latex. Although vinyl gloves exist, they are usually designed for artists, hospitality workers, and others who want to keep their hands clean but don’t need strong protection.

Since latex allergies can develop at any time, latex gloves are best avoided in medical settings. Plus, nitrile offers stronger tear-resistance and shows tears more visibly on the rare occasion that it does sustain damage.

Like gloves, gowns have different materials that are optimized for different environments. Level 1 CPE disposable gowns offer the bare minimum protection from contamination and are suitable for visitors in sensitive environments but are not appropriate for most staff.

Respiratory Protection

Masks can protect you from airborne diseases, but they can also serve to protect your patient or work environment from your coughs and sneezes. It’s essential to choose a mask that provides protection if you’re concerned about your own exposure to microbes or dust.

The three main types of masks used in medical environments are surgical, N95, and KN95 masks. Surgical masks are primarily intended to protect others from small droplets expelled while breathing and offer minimal protection for yourself. N95 masks are normally the U.S. standard for healthcare settings and protect yourself and others from airborne pathogens.

KN95 masks are very similar to N95 masks but use a Chinese certification instead of the standard U.S. criteria. They were accepted by the FDA for use in healthcare settings during the COVID-19 pandemic, so their quality is well-documented and recognized.

Strenuous Activities

PPE is designed with varying levels of thickness and breathability to keep small particles out. Although it is generally safe for indoor use, some outdoor uses or uses in humid climates may result in heat stress if the PPE is poorly designed or not breathable enough.

Fortunately, most U.S. healthcare climates are well air-conditioned. Workers in factories or construction may have to experiment with layering thin clothing underneath protective wear to stay safe and comfortable.

usage and limitations of PPE

Removing PPE Safely

No matter how good your PPE is, their protection depends on your proper usage and following safe donning and removal protocols. Washing your hands before putting PPE on is essential to keeping bacteria from your hands from transferring to your face or under the PPE.

After use, remove the PPE without touching its contaminated exterior surfaces with your bare hands. For gloves, pinch and lift the bottom of one glove partway up your palm, remove the other glove, and then use your bare hand to pinch and remove the remaining glove from the inside out. Gowns require a similar method for turning the contaminated surface to the inside to avoid transfer to your clothes.

Staying Safe in Any Setting

PPE can prevent a wide range of illnesses and injuries resulting from contact with hazardous materials or pathogens. However, you need the appropriate quality and quantity of PPE to provide this consistent protection to your employees.

ICU Production has become a reliable provider of PPE for various U.S. settings, even during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We source a range of PPE and sanitizing products for both adults and children and are happy to work with organizations of all sizes. Call our PPE hotline at 1-323-970-2532 to learn more about our customized solutions for you.