Planning for the new normal: is PPE reusable?

In these difficult times, planning for your return to the office can be rife with stress. You’ve not only got the increased pressure of ensuring the health and wellbeing of your employees, but there’s also the added worry of needing to source a range of PPE items that you hadn’t accounted for in your yearly budget.

To help you ensure both the safety of your employees, as well as maximise the value of your PPE to help keep costs in check, we’ve pooled together the latest Government advice on which common PPE items can be reused and which can’t. 

Can be reused

Goggles

Most PPE goggles are designed to be reused. However, every product is different, check the manufacturer’s guidelines for info on how to safely reuse your specific goggles.

Visors

Like many PPE items, visors are available in both single-use and multi-use forms. Ideally, you should look to source multi-use equivalents, as they’re specifically designed for reuse.

That said, the UK Government has suggested that, under the current circumstances, it may be necessary to reuse single-use visors. They can potentially be reused under the following Government guidelines:

“If in extremely short supply, single-use only items could be re-used in a similar way as re-usable items.

The standard method of cleaning is to use a detergent product either combined/sequentially with a decontamination product as agreed by the local infection prevention and control (IPC) specialists.

They should be rinsed thoroughly to remove any residual detergent or cleaning product and left to dry.”

Surgical masks

Although it’s unlikely that most businesses will need surgical grade masks – we noted in a recent article that proper hand hygiene is the best defence against the spread of infection – in certain circumstances, they might help provide a better sense of security for your employees and your customers. 

If you are considering providing them to your teams, and want to reuse them, make sure you adhere to the following Government guidelines: 

  • the mask should be removed and discarded if soiled, damaged, or hard to breathe through
  • masks with elastic ear hooks should be re-used (tie-on face masks are less suitable because they are more difficult to remove)
  • hand hygiene should be performed before removing the face mask
  • face masks should be carefully folded so the outer surface is held inward and against itself to reduce likely contact with the outer surface during storage
  • the folded mask should be stored between uses in a clean sealable bag/ box which is marked with the person’s name and is then properly stored in a well-defined place
  • hand hygiene should be performed after removing the face mask
  • some models of PPE cannot be physically reused as they deform once being donned and do not go back to original condition (meaning it would be difficult to re-don and achieve a fit check). Fit checks should be performed each time a respirator is donned if it is reused. (Source: gov.uk) 

Cannot be reused

Single-use gowns

Again, this one applies more to healthcare organisations, however, gowns may also be useful for those working in the hospitality or food sector. 

Government guidelines have indicated that single-use gowns should not be reused.

It’s important to note, however, that you could look into washable and reusable alternatives. Just keep in mind that they’ll still need to be washed and temporarily replaced after any suspected contamination. You won’t be able to provide just one washable gown to each employee, as they’ll potentially need to change multiple times throughout the day.

Aprons

As with gowns, disposable aprons will need to be discarded and replaced after each use and after any potential contamination. The Government strictly does not recommend the reuse of disposable aprons.

Disposable gloves

Finally, disposable gloves are another PPE item that must not be reused. As mentioned earlier, proper hand hygiene is your best ally in keeping infection spread at bay, so this should be your first port of call. 

If the use of disposable gloves is vital in order for your business to reopen, be sure to educate all staff on the importance of discarding and replacing gloves regularly to minimise the chances of contaminants spreading.

All information in this post is taken from the Government’s latest guidelines on reusing PPE published on May 3rd 2020. For more information, visit this link www.gov.uk.