How to use PPE safely

Proper usage and safe disposal makes all the difference.

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A discarded glove on a bike path. Health officials say discarded gloves and other PPE are a potential health hazard. – Frederick Rundlet

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is useful not only to safeguard the health and well-being of frontline workers, but if used correctly, it can also protect members of the general public.

Gov. Charlie Baker has issued an advisory for the state of Massachusetts suggesting that people wear a face covering while in public if they cannot maintain an adequate six-foot distance from others.

In places like supermarkets and other close-quarters indoor areas, it is even more essential to wear a face covering and take all necessary hygiene precautions. Many stores on-Island are requiring customers to wear face coverings.

Tisbury board of health agent, Maura Valley, said it is important for the public to realize that wearing a mask may provide limited protection, and is not a satisfactory alternative to proper hand-washing and distancing protocols.

“Wearing a mask may help to prevent the spread of coronavirus from the person wearing the

mask to others who are nearby,” Valley wrote in an email to The Times. “Therefore, if we all wear masks, we may be protecting each other.”

The most important precautions remain: stay six feet away from others, wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, and do not leave your house if you feel ill (contact your primary care provider).

With so many Island makers stitching together homemade masks, some might wonder about the efficacy of cloth masks as opposed to certified N95 masks with a filter.

While wearing a makeshift mask (or even a bandana) is not as effective in preventing infection as an N95 mask, Valley wrote that a cloth mask may prevent you and others from catching the virus when you are unable to stay six feet away.

“However, wearing a cloth mask provides limited protection and alone is not sufficient protection from the virus,” Valley said

Wearing a cloth mask, in combination with proper hygiene, sanitation, and distancing measures, can help the entire Island stay safe and healthy, Valley wrote. 

But with personal protective equipment comes great responsibility. If you choose to wear a mask while you are out, you must not touch it or adjust it, or else you are exposing others to possible infection.

When you leave a public space, Valley suggests taking your mask off by untying the back and then folding it in half, toward the front. Place the mask in a plastic bag until you get home.

If you have the ability, wash your hands or clean your hands with hand sanitizer immediately after removing the mask. Wash your hands thoroughly once you get home.

If you are using a cloth face covering or another type of reusable mask, wash it in hot water and soap before using it again. 

Another possible option to prevent the spread of infection is wearing gloves when in public places, although Valley wrote that wearing gloves still does not replace the need to frequently wash your hands. And if you choose to wear gloves, you need to understand proper usage and disposal.

“If you choose to wear gloves, please be sure to remove and dispose of them properly,” Valley wrote. “In addition to being an eyesore, improperly disposing of masks and gloves requires another individual to pick them up and possibly exposing themselves to the virus if the person originally using the PPE happens to be infected.”

Do not touch your face or other parts of the body when wearing gloves, and do not reuse gloves or use them for extended periods of time.

In order to safely remove gloves and throw them out, grab or pinch the outside of one glove with both hands still covered, without touching your bare skin. Peel the glove away from your body, turning it inside out as you remove it. Hold the removed glove with the covered hand, and slip your bare hand under the wrist cuff of the glove. Peel the second glove away in the same manner as the first glove, turning it inside out as you remove it (you’ll end up with both gloves inside-out, one wrapped inside the other).

Throw used gloves in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

All these safety precautions regarding masks and gloves will ensure that protective equipment can do its job properly.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Even while wearing the mask it is important to maintain as much “social distance” as circumstances allow. Look at your N 95. The air is filtered going in – check. Now look at the discharge/check valve. Get the point?

    • Good point. From what I have seen, many do not understand this. People should create their own circumstances, in order that they do not get too close to each other.

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