Being probably one of the most crucial elements to the fight against COVID-19, PPE has become a product of unparalleled demand in the last 12 months. Key considerations have jumped out to us for purchasing PPE. Its safety importance is obvious – without PPE, personnel on the front line of the war against infection are totally exposed to the deadly virus. As regulations come into play and more and more organisations require masks, gowns, gloves, face shields and goggles – to name a few products, there are key considerations which must be made when obtaining these products.
1: Comfort and Ergonomics
The comfort and ergonomics of your PPE is highly important for effective use. Common sense will tell us that more uncomfortable PPE will tempt users to doff it, erring on the side of comfort and exposing them to risks. Furthermore, for health professionals, the ones who need the equipment the most, ergonomics and comfort will allow them to maximise their efficiency and work their best without being impeded by uncomfortable apparel.
Good quality PPE will not only provide maximum comfort but maximum protection, allowing the user to do his or her job properly.
2: Threat Level
Determining the threat level associated with the application of PPE will allow you to make the best choices. While most PPE requirements for a particular venue will be dictated by the regulations and government guidelines associated with WHS and risk management for that category, others will require the manager or personnel to make their own judgements on the PPE requirements.
Risk management in the clinical or pathology workspaces will assist in determining measures to eliminate cross-contamination and will ultimately determine the safety of your staff.
Having determined the threat levels in the laboratory, procurement and WHS personnel will be able to make informed decisions on what PPE is necessary to ensure the absolute protection of staff.
3: Protection and Compliance
Where regulations occur, PPE compliance will be specified. In Australia, TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) approval is required to use PPE in certain applications. TGA Approval ensures that the product you are buying is genuine, will offer the protection it advertises, and is appropriate for the application specified. Know the specifications and protection standards, and this will help make the right decision for your application.
Buying on reputation is a safe way to buy. To purchase off a known and reputed supplier or manufacturer will basically allow you to know what you are buying. As seen in the height of the pandemic, manufacturers particularly in China and other Asian countries produced vast quantities of PPE such as masks and gowns, because of the ease of manufacturing such products. While this may have injected more into a very high demand market, the temporary nature of the manufacturing has resulted in a fracture of this system. Since, most people have turned to local manufacturing and reputable suppliers.
Furthermore, the reputations of manufacturers in the Asian regions is rapidly decreasing. Allegations simply continue to surface of China, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and more countries using child labour and bad working conditions to produce mass volumes for very low costs. Low pay and bad living conditions for boarding workers are more than often the case in such factories. This means that the likelihood that cheap PPE is produced unethically is high. Choose not to buy unethically, and support quality reputable companies.
5: Supply availability
A huge factor in being able to purchase PPE is reliability of the supply chain. Being able to buy something and know that it will arrive on time relieves a huge burden on procurement staff and provides security for the organisation to which it is delivered. Often, this is the case with locally manufactured products. These are usually the highest quality and most reliably sourced items. Furthermore, locally made is a win-win for purchasing: it creates jobs, supports our economy, and gives the highest quality product.