Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health workforce during COVID-19
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
PPE for coronavirus (COVID-19) includes surgical masks, particulate filter respirators (such as P2 or N95), gloves, goggles, glasses, face shields, gowns and aprons. Find out who in the health workforce should use PPE and how to use it.
Why use PPE?
PPE protects the wearer from infection. Proper use helps keep health workers safe and stops the spread of COVID-19.
Health care and other workers may be required to use PPE if they work around people who have been diagnosed with, or might have, COVID-19. The choice of PPE appropriate for the circumstances should be determined by a risk assessment.
Give surgical masks to patients to wear straight away if they:
are in quarantine or being tested for COVID-19
are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Informing patients about PPE
When communicating with patients, explain:
PPE may not always be required in every circumstance
if you wear a mask or other PPE it is for their and your protection
If people in your practice wear PPE, you may want to provide signage near the entrance advising this is to protect patients and staff.
If you are a health practitioner providing in-home care, let the patient know in advance that you may wear a mask or other PPE when visiting their home.
Summary of key recommendations P2/N95 respirators and surgical face masks:
1. All healthcare workers should follow standard and transmission-based precautions as described in the International Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare (2021).
2. Healthcare workers who wear P2/N95 respirators should complete fit testing before first use, and perform a fit (seal) check properly each time they are used. In situations where fit testing has not yet been carried out, and a P2/N95 respirator is recommended for use, a fit-checked P2/N95 respirator is preferred to a surgical mask.
3. All healthcare workers providing direct patient care or working within the patient /client /resident zone 2 for individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should have access to P2/N95 respirators.
4. For healthcare workers providing direct patient care or working within the patient/client /resident zone for individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, the choice between P2/N95 respirator or surgical mask should be based on an assessment of risk of transmission.
5. Assessment of risk of transmission of COVID-19 to healthcare workers should include consideration of:
• the individual patient/client/resident’s pre-existing likelihood of COVID-19,
• patient/client/resident factors,
• physical location of care.
Likely high-risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission
6. Healthcare workers providing direct care or working within the patient/client/resident zone for individuals where assessment suggests a high-risk of transmission, should use P2/N95 respirators rather than face masks, along with the other PPE required.
Likely low-risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission
7. Healthcare workers providing direct patient care or working within the patient/ client/ resident zone for individuals where assessment suggests a low risk of transmission, should use PPE in accordance with existing guidance.
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Sources: Australian Government Department of Health