We’ve all worn our fair share of facial PPE in the last year with the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The increase of disease in the recent decades, due to increased travel and population density, has posed a serious threat to public health. While there are many vectors for disease spread, diseases spread via the respiratory, droplet and airborne route are some of the most easily spread. While we’ve seen widespread implementation of protective measures such as social distancing, it isn’t always practical. In situations where this is not possible, however, personal protective equipment (PPE) is the next best option. Masks and respirators are arguably the most important piece of PPE. And, fortunately, different types of masks giving different levels of protection to the wearer.
Masks work by limiting the spread of respiratory droplets. Their work is twofold: not only do they reduce the number of droplets reaching the air, but they also reduce the distance those droplets travel. Masks have been proven to reduce virus emissions from infected patients.
Facial PPE in aged care
In the aged care setting, the decision to use facial PPE is based on the outcome of a risk assessment. This means we look at:
- The task to be undertaken
- How the respiratory pathogen is transmitted, i.e., contact, airborne or droplet.
- How long the task is going to take
- The environment where the task is being undertaken
- According to the current health policies and procedures
Standard, single use, surgical masks are commonly worn to prevent respiratory droplets from being dispersed into the environment.
Note, however, that cloth masks are not effective against sprays or splashing. Eye protection can also be added to protect the healthcare worker against possible splashing into eyes of blood and other body fluids. There is a choice of visors or goggles which will be worn according to the task being undertaken, the risk of likely exposure, local policy and what is available.
Whilst facial and respiratory equipment is a very necessary form of respiratory protection, this needs to be enhanced. This is done by ensuring the mask is applied and worn correctly. We must avoid touching our face and the external surface of the mask, due to contamination risk. We must perform hand hygiene appropriately. We must dispose of the respiratory protective equipment appropriately, to avoid contamination risk.
Donning and doffing education
While all of us have some idea about how to put on and take off PPE, doing it properly is key to prevent the spread of infection. It’s crucial that staff are educated in how to don (put on) and doff (take off) PPE appropriately. They also need to be taught how to adjust, remove and dispose of it safely. Many staff aren’t aware of proper donning and doffing order, or disposal procedures, so regular staff training and testing is essential. Self-reported competencies are not enough: staff need to be observed and have their technique gently corrected to ensure appropriate protection is achieved.
Do your facility staff know when they should be wearing facial PPE, and which PPE is best for their situation? Do they know how to don and doff appropriately and effectively? Bug Control can help with staff resources and education — with over twenty-five years of experience in infection control across Australia and New Zealand, we’ve seen it all. Contact us today for an obligation-free chat.