Covid-19 has caused a significant rise in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). Respiratory protection, face protection and gloves have all been used to protect people during the pandemic and this is unlikely to stop once the pandemic has become more manageable.
Indeed, workplaces may see a rise in the number of respiratory masks and gloves requested by workers. Workers may feel safer if they continue to use the safety controls put in place during the pandemic, in case there is another outbreak. With manufacturers and suppliers dealing with more requests to purchase equipment, PPE supplies my not be as readily available as they were pre-pandemic. Organisations will therefore need to manage their supplies because there’ll not only be an expected increase in demand but the potential for theft will become much higher. This will come at a cost to any organisation.
Rather than neglect workers and refuse PPE, organisations should be sensitive to workers’ needs after what has been such an intimidating and disruptive period. At the same time, organisations will need to be smart following long layoffs, with many having generated little to no income in some circumstances. Giving out PPE for every small task will be costly, so organisations should conduct a risk assessment to establish what controls can be used before using PPE. If PPE is required then the risk assessment should determine what PPE is necessary for the specific job/task. Identifying exactly what PPE is required for different roles and tasks will help organisations get the appropriate equipment to their workers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a mobile app, called medPPE, that provides detailed information on the PPE that health personnel use to guard against Covid-19. The app has been designed for workers in health facilities, including security guards, administrative and cleaning personnel, transfer assistants, nurses, biomedical and imaging technicians, surgeons, physicians and other healthcare workers. Despite the app being focused on one specific sector, it may be that advice for those working administration, cleaning and security could be made transferrable across other sectors.
Here’s a ready PPE checklist for any organisation:
|Is all PPE securely locked away?|
|Have checks been made to record a total number of each piece of PPE available?|
|Has appropriate PPE been identified for all roles/ tasks?|
|If a worker is requesting PPE, is it necessary for the worker to complete his/her job/task?|
|Is there a procedure in place for issuing PPE supplies?|
|Does the procedure include what measures are to be taken if a worker consistently requests new PPE?|
|Is there a PPE issue form to document what PPE a worker has requested?|
|Is there a register in place to document how much and what types of PPE a worker has asked for and how frequently they have requested it?|
|Are frequent audits of PPE supplies being conducted?|
If a certain type of PPE has been identified as not being necessary for a worker to complete a task, then it should be refused (unless the worker can clarify why it is appropriate).