What is PPE?
You’ve probably heard of PPE way too much in the past few months. It’s in all the major news headlines. Everybody wanted to acquire them — governments, public and private organizations, and individuals alike have been scrambling to get their hands on these “precious resources.”
PPE became one of the most searched words search engines and the most ordered items on e-commerce sites, while the shelves emptied in stores, stocks in warehouses ran low. Suddenly, everyone needed this niche item that was typically used only by workers exposed to particular hazards in the workplace.
So what, exactly, is PPE?
PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment. It is any equipment that protects users against health and safety risks at work. PPE includes protective clothing, safety helmets, eye protection, gloves, safety footwear, face masks, and other respiratory protective equipment, among other things.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), PPE’s use is “one effective measure within a package of administrative and environmental and engineering controls, as described in WHO’s Infection prevention and control of epidemic and pandemic-prone acute respiratory infections in health care.”
Due to the shortage in the supply of essential PPE in the market, the WHO also recommends using it as a last resort and only when such engineering and administrative controls fail in eliminating or reducing the risks present to acceptable levels.
COVID-19 and the need for protective equipment
The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which reportedly started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in early December of last year, has put the use and necessity of PPE at the forefront. PPE, however, is not exclusively used in the healthcare industry or for the prevention of the spread of viruses and diseases. Other workers, too, need protective equipment for them to be able to perform their jobs safely.
In light of COVID-19, PPE has been key to the so-called frontliners in the healthcare industry when dealing and treating infected patients. On the other hand, governments, institutions, and establishments around the world have not only prescribed but required the use of PPE to everyone in efforts to prevent the further spread of the virus. The most commonly used types of protective equipment are face masks and face respirators.
PPE use should depend on the kind of risk being avoided and the setting wherein it is present. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a distinction between COVID-19 and the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The former is transmitted through respiratory droplets while the latter, Ebola, is transmitted through infected bodily fluids. Hence, the PPE requirements for protection against the two are different. The WHO specifies even further that coveralls are not entirely essential when it comes to dealing with COVID-19 patients. In the same manner, PPE is unnecessary when in a place, like your own home, where there is no apparent risk present.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), though, has certain limitations because it does not, at all, aid in mitigating risks and hazards at their sources. Thus, the malfunctions, defects, and failure in proper usage of PPE could still expose its users to such risks and dangers. Likewise, the effectivity of all kinds of PPE in mitigating the threat of COVID-19 or any other hazard heavily relies on the proper use of such equipment. Such effectivity involves choosing the appropriate PPE, knowing and sometimes, training on how to put them on, how to remove them, and how to dispose of them properly.
The usage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is only one of the many ways in which we can protect ourselves and others from the novel coronavirus. The authorities have also advised on and established rules on self-isolation and social distancing that we must adhere to as well.