General PPE Safety Considerations
A. Respiratory Protection Program
According to OSHA’s regulation 1910.134(c), “In any workplace where respirators are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer, the employer shall establish and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures. The program shall be updated as necessary to reflect those changes in workplace conditions that affect respirator use.” In addition, OSHA requires employers to adhere to multiple other regulations in regards to their respiratory protection program, to include but not limited to:
- Fit testing
- Medical evaluations and procedures
- Use of respirators
- Cleaning and disinfecting
OSHA: Respirator Fit Testing (video)
Click on the video below for a better understanding of the importance of fit testing all employees who might wear a respirator in the course of their duties:
B. Backup Responders/Receivers
OSHA guidance suggests that any organization with a decontamination program plans to have backup personnel in place for every responder or receiver conducting decontamination operations in a real-world hazardous materials event. Backup personnel should be in same level of PPE as those conducting operations in the warm zone. For every individual dressed in PPE and working on the decontamination line, there should be an equal number of individuals on stand-by in the event of an emergency. If this is not possible due to a shortage of qualified personnel, attempt to observe a 2-1 ratio at all times.
Proper Donning and Doffing of PPE
Improper doffing of PPE is likely the cause of many accidental exposures to Ebola and other communicable diseases in healthcare environments. Although the donning and doffing standards for the various PPE ensembles are often very different (yet still effective), it is critical that healthcare professionals and the organizations that employ them strive to collectively practice, refine, and provide the time necessary to rehearse technique as often as possible. Practice makes perfect!
CDC link: How to Remove Gloves
CDC link: Hand Washing for Healthcare Workers