Working in healthcare puts medical professionals at risk of infection on a daily basis. Medical staff should take the upmost care when protecting themselves and others from potentially infectious materials. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is crucial to the prevention and control of infection in the healthcare industry.
Employees should be knowledgeable on the best ways to protect themselves.
What is Personal Protective Equipment?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is protective clothing and equipment that minimizes exposure to and risk from infectious materials. In healthcare, PPE is used to create a barrier between the worker and any potentially hazardous material.
PPE improves staff and patient safety, prevents the spread of germs, and helps manage infection control. Here are some examples of PPE used in the healthcare setting:
- Goggles: Protect eyes
- Face shields: Protect face, eyes, nose, and mouth
- Hair covers and hoods: Protect hair, head, and neck
- Masks and respirators: Protect mouth, nose, and respiratory tract
- Gowns and aprons: Protect skin and clothing
- Gloves: Protect hands
- Leg and shoe covers: Protect skin, clothing, and shoes
Selecting the appropriate PPE is an important part of protecting yourself from blood, bodily fluids, and other potentially infectious materials (OPIMs). Workers must anticipate the type of hazard they will encounter and choose accordingly.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be well maintained and used properly. Employers must provide PPE that is clean, reliable, and appropriately sized. Employers are also required to train workers on the use PPE in accordance with OSHA standards.
When is Personal Protective Equipment Required?
CDC and Standard Precautions
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends when PPE should be worn through Standard Precautions and Expanded Isolation Precautions.
Standard Precautions (SP) are practices that protect against infection and are designed for the safety of staff and patients. Workers are to treat all blood and bodily fluids as if they were infected and take the appropriate precautions by using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Here are some examples of using PPE for Standard Precautions:
- Gloves: Use when touching blood, bodily fluids, mucus membranes, and contaminated items
- Gowns and aprons: Use when contact of skin and clothing is expected with a patient, blood, or bodily fluids
- Mask, goggles, or face shield: Use when there is a likelihood of blood or bodily fluids spraying or splashing
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also proposes safety standards to manage and minimize risk. OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard requires employers to follow an exposure control plan (ECP), use PPE properly, prepare for the safe handling of sharps, provide a hepatitis B vaccine for those at risk, and follow up with a post-exposure plan.
Employers must also provide an annual bloodborne pathogens training for all employees that will potentially be exposed to infectious materials. The training will teach employees how to handle bloodborne pathogens and when and how to use PPE.
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Medical Waste Pros has a comprehensive network of compliance training providers to ensure you are compliant with OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard. Feel confident in the safety of your employees and patients with training from our professional partners.
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