What is PPE? As defined by OSHA “Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits”.
Why is PPE Important? Healthcare workers can be exposed to biological fluids that are capable of transmitting diseases. Those diseases, which are caused by a variety of microorganisms such as, Hepatitis B virus (HBV), Hepatitis C virus (HCV), Ebola Virus, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can pose significant risks to life and health. Healthcare workers wear protective clothing (e.g., surgical gowns, isolation gowns, and coveralls) to protect both patients and themselves from the transfer of microorganisms by blood and body fluids. A common misunderstanding among many end users is that they are protected from blood, body fluids, and other potentially infectious materials when they wear any type of fluid-resistant garment.
A recent Study identifies common PPE doffing errors: “As part of a study on doffing strategies, researchers at Rush University Medical Center monitored 125 health care workers as they removed personal protective equipment. Each worker had cared for patients colonized or infected with a multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO). The study found that 39 percent of workers made doffing errors, and more than one-third of health care workers were contaminated with an MDRO. The study, “Impact of doffing errors on healthcare worker self-contamination when caring for patients on contact precautions,” was published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology”.
The Joint Commission and CMS has been focusing on the proper donning, utilization and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment in association with the Infection Prevention Program. Variances or Errors in this process can and will probably lead to a deficient finding in Infection Control Elements of Performance. Ensure your organization has conducted a proper risk assessment and has provided proper competency training to all staff who are required or at risk of exposure during their work duties.