How to remove PPE to avoid contamination

Man removing PPE

Given that the virus stays on certain surfaces for a period of time after it’s been in contact with a person carrying Covid-19, it’s important that you take care with the things you touch, and the things you wear, as well as thorough handwashing on a very regular basis.

PPE equipment can reduce the spread of the virus - by protecting the wearer from being infected, as well as reducing a person’s ability to spread the virus to others if they are themselves infected (some people are asymptomatic and may not know they’re carrying the virus).

Whilst PPE is crucial in medical settings, now that some restrictions are being lifted and the general public have more opportunity to come into contact with each other, PPE is important across all other industries.

Wearing it is the easy part. How do you remove it and dispose of it without infecting yourself, and how would you clean it/wash it to remove any traces of the virus if an item is to be used again?

Let’s take those questions one at a time…

Removing PPE

If you’re wearing gloves, make these the last item you remove. Take off your face mask from the back by undoing the ties or by gripping the elastic and moving it upwards and off your head; the mask should then drop forwards away from your face whilst you’re still holding onto the elastic/ties. Take care to not allow the front of the mask to touch your face. Dispose of the mask in an appropriate manner, in a waste receptacle where it is unlikely to be touched by anyone.

Take off your gloves by peeling them off your hands, so that they’re inside out when removed. Dispose responsibly, as above.

Wash your clothes on a hot setting, at least 60 degrees. Once your clothes are in the machine, wash your hands with a handwash/sanitiser that is at least 70% alcohol based.

Disinfecting reusable PPE

Most visors, screens to protect you from the public, eye goggles, etc., will be made of plastic and can be used again. Though advice changes, it’s generally thought that the virus stays on plastic for two to three days, which means cleaning after each use is vital. Use diluted bleach to wipe down all plastic surfaces and wash the cloth immediately if it’s not a disposable one.

Disposable PPE

If at all possible, use disposable/one-use face masks; remove and dispose of these as outlined above. Health organisations do not recommend using any kind of mask more than once, even those with replaceable filters. The reason being, every workplace and situation is different, and they cannot recommend, without a doubt, that reuse will not prevent infection from Covid-19.

*NB: This isn’t a comprehensive list, and we’re referring here to PPE typically used by tradespeople that could protect workers and the general public in everyday settings - rather than PPE in hospitals that medics use.