What is PPE?

PPE (PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT) is needed to protect health and social care workers caring for people who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. The SARS2-Coronavirus, which causes the condition known as COVID-19, is transmitted by droplets inhaled through the nose and/or mouth. Contact through the eyes may also be a risk. For this reason, PPE that covers these areas is needed to

reduce the risks of viral transmission.

  • Single pair of gloves

  • Disposable plastic apron

  • Fluid repellent surgical mask

  • Eye protection (including visors)

For all face to face patient contacts (within 2 metres) throughout our hospitals.

Level 1 PPE

  • Double pair of gloves.

  • Long sleeved fluid repellent gown

  • FFP3 respirator mask

  • Eye protection (including visors)

Level 2 PPE

Level 2 PPE should be worn for all aerosol generating procedures irrespective of whether the patient is suspected to have COVID-19 or not. In particular settings like our Adult Intensive Care Unit or respiratory ward level 2 PPE should be worn at all times. Filtering Face-Piece (FFP3) masks represent the highest performance class of disposable respirator based on their ability to filter virus particles (they must filter 99% of all particles measuring up to 0.6 μm), whilst limiting leakage of exhaled air (maximum allowed leakage of 5%).

What are the differences between masks?

Respirators protect the wearer against both big and small airborne particles. They are adjusted to the wearer’s face, allowing minimal leakage.

Surgical masks

Surgical masks are fluid resistant and protect the wearer against large droplets, but not from smaller airborne ones. It’s fitting is loose, allowing the possibility of leakage through the sides.

In Europe, they must meet certain standards which separates them into three classes:

  • FFP1 masks offer the lowest respiratory protection and are mainly used as dust masks.

  • FFP2 masks, which meets the guidance from the WHO and is the UK/EU equivalent of the US N95 masks are currently used for protection against coronavirus.

  • FFP3 masks, offering the highest protection. Current guidelines stipulate FFP3 face masks for virus and bacterial infection control when the contagion is spread through coughing and sneezing (such as with the coronavirus). They are also often used by healthcare professionals when handling hazardous pharmaceutical chemicals.

PPE Recommendation Chart by Public Health England

Please click on the image for a larger version and to be taken to their website


Image credits

Visual comparison from Public Health England (PHE) document: COVID-19 Safe ways of working A visual guide to safe PPE

Surgical face mask: Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

FFP3 Respirator: Image released into the public domain by creator

Comparison chart from PHE document: Recommended PPE for healthcare workers by secondary care inpatient clinical setting, NHS and independent sector

Use of PHE images licensed under the Open Government Licence

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