Coronavirus: Hand Hygiene and PPE


A respiratory illness called 2019-nCoV (a novel coronavirus) has broken out in China. So far it has infected more than 5,900 people and killed 132. Cases continue to be confirmed around the world.
The current focus is on Wuhan, the biggest city in central China and home to 11 million people. Wuhan is on travel lockdown as officials try to stop the spread of the virus.

What Has This Got To Do With PPE?

It's important to talk about personal protective equipment (PPE) every day. But public health emergencies often highlight just how vital PPE really is.
Disposable coveralls, safety eyewear, respiratory protective equipment (RPE), and disposable gloves are helping Wuhan doctors and nurses stay safe as they work with patients.
But PPE alone doesn't keep workers safe in infectious environments. It's also crucial to remember the importance of:
  • Hand hygiene
  • Proper donning (putting on) and doffing (removing) of PPE

Hand Hygiene

The coronavirus has a lot in common with other respiratory viruses like the common cold and flu. This means a lot of techniques used to avoid colds and flu also apply to the coronavirus - including washing your hands!
When it comes to actual dirt, you'll need anti-bacterial soap and water to keep your hands clean. You should lather for at least 15 seconds before rinsing.
As well as this, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are excellent at preventing the spread of viral infections. Bear in mind they must have at least 60% alcohol content to be effective.
To maximise effectiveness, you should wash your hands after coughing or sneezing, or before eating. You should also avoid touching your mouth or eyes.
For employers, it's important to install soap and sanitiser dispenser units in relevant places. This will make hand hygiene easy and accessible to employees.
Luckily there's a huge choice of dispensers, soaps and sanitisers to suit every workplace. You can also use these with hand creams to hydrate dry or chapped skin.

Donning and Doffing of PPE

Using PPE in the correct way is important in any work environment. And for infection preventionists (IPs), such as those working in Wuhan, the proper donning and doffing of PPE is absolutely critical.
We've outlined some donning and doffing basics below. These can also apply to many industries where workers come into contact with hazardous substances.
Please note this is guidance only. Anybody who is exposed to harmful substances or infectious environments should train in the correct way of donning and doffing PPE without contaminating themselves.

Donning Basics

  • Put on PPE before contact with a patient or a harmful substance.
  • You should put on PPE in the following order:

    • Coverall or gown
    • Footwear
    • RPE
    • Goggles or face shield
    • Gloves
  • Keep hands away from the face.
  • Limit the number of surfaces touched.
  • Change PPE immediately if torn, damaged or heavily contaminated.

Doffing Basics

  • Carefully remove PPE in the following order:

    • Wash/disinfect footwear
    • Hood of coverall
    • Gloves
    • Coverall or gown
    • Footwear
    • Wash/decontaminate hands
    • Goggle or face shield
    • RPE
  • The location for removing PPE will depend on the type of PPE worn and the workplace. For instance, if you work in a healthcare environment where full PPE is worn, you may need to remove it in an anteroom.
  • The goal of removing PPE is to prevent contamination of yourself or the environment. Because of this, the following areas of PPE are considered contaminated whether there's visible soil or not:

    • The outside front and sleeves of a coverall or gown.
    • The outside front of RPE and goggle or face shields.
    • The outside of gloves.
  • You should discard all PPE in the receptacles provided.
  • Perform hand hygiene straight away.

Stay Safe Whatever The Hazard

Hand hygiene and PPE are just two techniques which can be used in the management of infectious environments or harmful substances. You should always consult proper authorities before exposing yourself to viruses or hazardous material as they will provide appropriate guidance tailored to the conditions and activities you might engage in.

How Can Swift360 Help?

We supply disposable coveralls, RPE, safety eyewear, footwear and gloves. So if you're heading into a potentially hazardous work environment, get in touch to discuss your PPE requirements in further detail ( or 01420 592 500).

You can also check out our PPE offering online​ or download our catalogue.

Useful Links and Articles

Swift360 - Eye Protection Guide

Swift360 - Ultimate PPE Guide

Project HOPE - Coronavirus Outbreak, What You Need To Know

Infection Control Today - "Proper Donning and Doffing Techniques Crucial Amid Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak", January 29th 2020

Infection Control Today - "Donning and Removing PPE for Infection Prevention", July 23rd 2009.

Aol - "Does hand sanitiser protect you from Coronavirus?", January 29th 2020

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