Get some guidance on what level of protective equipment employers may need to provide to workers as part of their return to the workplace strategies.
As countries around the world continue to loosen restrictions around stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19, one acronym keeps appearing in the news: PPE. Short for personal protective equipment, PPE is defined by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as “equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.”
The reason why PPE continues to make headlines is that contraction and transmission of the COVID-19 virus are still being researched. As a result, employers are examining whether they need to provide workers with PPE or other protective equipment as part of their respective return to the workplace strategies. The short answer is that it depends.
Australian Government’s Department of Health: Covers how PPE products are regulated, definitions of PPE types, and supplier guidance
India Government’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: describe preventative measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
Ireland Government’s Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation: Lists protocols on returning to the workplace with suppression guidelines around PPE
Singapore’s Ministry of Health – National Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines: Includes protocols on wearable equipment pertinent to healthcare workers
UK Government’s Public Health England: Shares information about the use of PPE by health and social care workers in the context of the pandemic
In many traditional business environments, making appropriate workspace modifications to enable physical distancing and reduce health risks will make workers feel looked-after and safe while performing their jobs. Based on the nature of the business, the physical construct of the workplace, and workers’ comfort in returning, it is up to companies to increase the levels of precautions they institute.
The more care a company takes to protect its workers by implementing practices that help slow, limit, and avoid outbreaks of the virus at the worksite, the greater overall protection the company will have from complaints to unions, OSHA violation claims, illnesses, and absenteeism.
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