For many workers, the notion of personal protective equipment, or PPE, is nothing new. But given the COVID-19 pandemic, many others now don the PPE once restricted to industrial and scientific sectors. Even as the worst of the pandemic seems to have subsided, people still wear PPE as a necessary precaution.
Even after a year, some of us haven’t mastered the process of putting our PPE on and taking it off. This is no small fashion faux pas—it may not work if you don’t wear it right. If you’ve been making some of the common mistakes people make with PPE, fear not—there’s still time to correct yourself and benefit from best practices.
Gloves: Small Tears, Big Trouble
Latex and vinyl gloves are practically a miracle. They’re thin enough to feel barely there, guaranteeing a comfortable range of motion for your hands and fingers when precision and manual dexterity matter. At the same time, they also protect you remarkably well against harmful pathogens while shielding the object of your work from oils in your skin. The only catch is that you have to make sure they don’t rip. Even a small tear can nullify the protection these gloves offer. When putting on disposable gloves, make sure to do so with clean hands and the utmost care.
Dr. Fauci’s suggestion to wear a second mask over another mask sent veterans of PPE compliance into howls—for years, they’d been telling workers that layering equipment wasn’t necessarily safer. But if it does make you feel safer, make sure you put it on properly before you work up a false sense of confidence. If you supplement an N95 respirator with a surgical mask, for instance, be sure that the masks fit and that one won’t contaminate the other through repeated removal. When it comes to poorly applied PPE, one mask worn right is better than two worn wrong.
Reuse and Poor Storage
One of the most common mistakes people make with PPE involves reuse and improper storage. If you don’t keep your PPE safe, it won’t keep you safe. Wearing a cloth mask over and over without washing it only exposes the wearer to pathogens and skin problems. Reusing foam earplugs quickly becomes unsanitary and dangerous in its own right. Keep PPE from losing its protection by keeping it clean, storing it correctly, and disposing of it when necessary.