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The 411 on PPE: All Your Questions Answered

The 411 on PPE: All Your Questions Answered

Do You Need PPE in Your Office?

Why should I get PPE?

The use of personal protective equipment (PPE)  in the workplace has a long history,  and includes everything from hard hats to goggles to safety vests to gloves to masks. Prior to the appearance of COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus, PPE was most commonly worn by healthcare, construction, and law enforcement employees. With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s widely recommended (including by the CDC) that PPE be worn in all indoor, public environments, especially employees going to a physical office. The correct wearing of effective PPE is the most effective way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 

How does PPE stop the transmission of the coronavirus? 

It is believed that COVID-19 spreads much like the flu does. The primary form of transmission is through aerosol droplets, and the secondary method is through surfaces. Simply breathing or speaking without a mask is enough to spread airborne droplets containing the virus into the air nearby. These viral droplets can remain airborne and thus infectious for up to three hours. Wearing a mask greatly limits the transmission of these droplets.  

A secondary method of transmission is through touching a surface with the virus on it, then subsequently touching the mouth, nose, or eyes, which have mucous membranes vulnerable to infection by the virus. A study has found that the average person touches his or her face 23 times an hour, and 44% of those touches were on the mouth, nose, or eyes. Washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, and wearing gloves can prevent this transmission. Wearing masks correctly will prevent surface-to-face transfer to the mouth and nose, but not the eyes. 

Who should wear PPE?

Everyone who enters your place of work, including employees, clients, and guests, should wear PPE. In many states, its use is mandatory. PPE requirements may vary by role. For example, medical personnel should wear a N95/KN95 respirator. 

Many workplaces and business establishments take the temperature of clients and employees using a non-contact thermometer. This is effective at detecting fever, which is often a symptom of the coronavirus along with other diseases and conditions. However, keep in mind that temperature testing will most likely not detect people who are asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers.

What are the basic types of PPE?

The most common types of PPE used to stop the transmission of the coronavirus include face masks, gloves, face shields, and gowns. Sanitizers are also crucial, including hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes. Non-contact thermometers allow the detection of potentially ill (and infectious) individuals. 

Some PPE can be layered for extra protection, for example, a mask under a face shield. 

Why is it so hard to find PPE? 

Inadequate supply and huge worldwide demand. Trustworthy and certified manufactures have a huge backlog of orders, and raw materials can sometimes run short. In addition, state, federal, and worldwide governments continue to update PPE requirements as we learn more about COVID-19 and the situation on the ground changes by location. 

I don’t understand the difference between PPE types. What’s with all these numbers? 

PPE can be certified by governments worldwide. While certain standards need to be met, the different alphanumerical codes indicate which government has certified the product. The N95 mask, which filters out 95% or more of very small (0.3 micron) particles, and creates an airtight seal with the face when worn properly, is certified by the United States. The KN95, which follows the same standard, is certified by China. FFP2 products are certified by the European Union and offer 94% bacteria and viral filtration, as does the KMOEL, certified by Korea. 

That said, simply having the numbers on a piece of PPE equipment does not guarantee quality or safety. The CDC notes that counterfeit PPE equipment has flooded the market. It is not recommended to rely only on certifications, but to work with a PPE supplier with a relationship with the manufacturer of the products.

How often do I need to replace PPE?

It depends on the specific type of PPE. Gloves should be discarded after use. An N95 or K95 respirator can be worn for 8 hours, unless it becomes wet or is directly exposed to a potential infectious agent. Surgical/3 ply masks can similarly be worn 8 hours, unless the wearer interacts with a client or outside person, in which case the mask should be changed. A face shield can be reworn after being sanitized between uses. 

Keep in mind that individual pieces of PPE equipment should never be shared. And you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on correct usage, storage, and disposal of any type of PPE product.

What criteria should I look for in a trustworthy PPE provider?

While the sourcing of PPE on a companywide scale is a new experience for many employers and organizations, similar standards of trust and safety apply as in all business relationships.  

History. Is this a brand-new organization, or does it have a good track record of working reliably with multiple clients? 

See Also

Samples. Is the supplier willing to supply samples?

Documentation & commitments. Is the supplier able and willing to provide written assurances and verifications? 

Compliance. Is the supplier familiar with applicable Customs and FDA classifications and registration for legal importation in the United States?

Supply chain. Is the supplier in direct contact with PPE manufacturers?  

Experience. Are there professionals with verifiable and applicable medical and PPE experience at the supplier?

What’s Your PPE Plan?

Zeel can help your business get the highest quality in PPE at the best prices from vetted manufacturers. We’ll begin building your customized quote today – contact us now to get started.

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