For personal protective equipment to work correctly and safely, employees need to know how to properly put it on and take it off. Proper use of PPE such as N95 respirators, gloves, face shields and other apparatus is extremely important as individuals continue daily job functions during the coronavirus pandemic.
The N95 respirator is used to reduce exposure to airborne particles. Employees should follow these steps when using them:
- Wash your hands for 20 or more seconds before touching the N95 two-strap respirator.
- Hold the respirator with a clean hand and place it on your face. Use the other hand to place the top strap on your head and then the bottom strap.
- To conduct a positive and negative pressure test, breathe in and out while holding the respirator with your hands around the edges. If you feel the breath hitting your eyes or facial skin or air leakage, it is not seeded properly. This can allow potential contaminants into your mouth or nose. Press down on the metal nose piece from the bridge of the nose to your cheek, then conduct the pressure test again.
Although the respirators are a preventative measure used to stop airborne contaminants from getting in your system, they are not fail-safe. The N95 respirators do not work properly if they are wet, folded, creased or damaged. The respirators are considered single-use PPE. Those who have certain health issues such as emphysema should be evaluated by a healthcare professional before using the respirator, as it may be recommended that they not wear a respirator. Those who have a full facial beard will not get a proper facial seal, and therefore not get protection from the N95 mask.
The fit test requirements are being suspended by OSHA at this time because it destroys the respirator and there is currently a limited supply. Gloves that are worn for protection can have a potential hazard on them. The rubber-to-rubber and skin-to-skin methods should be used along with the two-finger technique. In the technique, grab the glove with the gloved two fingers and only touch the outside of the glove below the wrist. After the glove is removed, take the two ungloved fingers and grab inside the other glove to where only the skin of your fingers touch the skin of your wrist. Rubber touches rubber and skin touches skin. It is recommended to wash hands to ensure that no contaminant bypassed the PPE. Always place the used PPE in a proper trash receptacle. It should be lowered carefully into the trash receptacle to prevent potential contaminants from becoming airborne.
Proper protection from the COVID-19 virus may also require the use of a full-face shield to prevent the virus from getting into the wearer's eyes. During the outbreak of the coronavirus, leaving PPE at the workplace is recommended. This can help prevent exposing employees' household to the virus.
Apparatus worn by firefighters as PPE should be cleaned after each call. Decontamination procedures that are normally followed should continue. This will ensure that the PPE is clean and ready for use during the next call. It also ensures that the fire station is not contaminated.
For additional information on proper use and selection of PPE visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.CDC.gov/NIOSH.