What do supply chain workers need to know about PPE?

People around the world are now living with the new realities foisted upon them by the novel coronavirus outbreak that shows no signs of letting up in the next few months. Unfortunately, to keep the wheels of society moving, there is a necessity to bring workers in numerous industries - including the supply chain - out of their homes and to centralized places of business on a daily basis.

Any company asking workers to put themselves in harm's way at this time has a duty to make sure those employees are properly protected from being infected by the coronavirus, and that includes providing them with plenty of personal protective equipment, according to the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association. However, when companies take this necessary step, it's also important for workers to know the best practices around using PPE.

That starts with knowing how to effectively wear it and, when appropriate, remove it, the report said. There's more to safely wearing a facemask, gloves or eye protection than just putting them on and taking them off, and the most basic is washing hands thoroughly before and after doing so, as any potential source of infection that collected on these materials needs to be scrubbed away.

Having the right protective gear for your workers is a must.Having the right protective gear for your workers is a must.

What workers need
Companies certainly have a role to play in making sure workers know what they're doing with the PPE they're given (at least some training here will be helpful), but it's also important to take full note of the gear they need as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. Depending upon a number of factors related to their specific work, facemasks and gloves should be worn while on work premises at a bare minimum, but workers may also need gowns and eye protection as well to ensure they're fully protected.

They will also potentially need more - and better - access to proper sanitation stations where they can wash their hands, remove and dispose of single-use PPE and so on, the report said.

Other considerations
In some cases, it may be possible for workers to reuse certain types of PPE that you provide, but employers certainly need to make sure those pieces of gear are rated for reuse, according to Health.com. Moreover, most of the time they can only be reused after being sanitized, so if your organization does not have proper means of processing them, they should be disposed of rather than worn again. 

Furthermore, it's critical to stress to workers that they should never, under any circumstances, share PPE with others, the report said. The reason the first P in PPE stands for "personal" is because it's for one person and one person only. As such, one worker letting others even handle their PPE puts all involved at risk of infection.

Certainly, there may be more ins and outs related to proper use and disposal of PPE for your company, but these broad strokes provide the framework for basic worker protections at a time when they're absolutely critical.

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