Personal Protective Equipment (cont.)
Limitations of Protective Equipment
The use of any type of personal protection equipment requires adequate training. The overall goals of training are to protect the wearer from physical hazards (biological, chemical, radioactive) and to prevent injury from improper use or equipment malfunction.
- Personal protection equipment has its limitations:
- Takes time to put on: Level A PPE takes the longest time to put on.
- Difficult to perform tasks while wearing the equipment: Some first responders or emergency care personnel may experience difficulty in performing some life-saving interventions.
- Hard to move around while wearing the equipment: Mobility decreases with weight. Mobility also is limited by using a SAR, because the wearer must retrace his or her steps along the supplied air line to exit the hot zone.
- Difficult to communicate: Someone wearing a face piece or mask is difficult to understand.
- Hard to see: Face pieces also may limit the wearer's visual field.
- Full protection suits become hot inside: Encapsulation and moisture-impermeable CPC material lead to heat stress.
- Increased weight: Level A with SCBA is the heaviest PPE.
- Psychological stress: Encapsulation increases the psychological stress to wearers and victims.
- Can’t wear suits for long periods of time: Wearing level A PPE for longer than 30 minutes is difficult.
- Limited oxygen availability: SCBAs only can be used for the period of time allowed by the air in the tank. APRs only can be used in environments in which the outside air provides sufficient oxygen.
- PPE also is associated with potential hazards or risks to wearers, as follows:
- Improper use: Protective respiratory devices and CPC must be properly fitted, tested, and periodically checked before use.
- Penetration: If the equipment does not fit properly, the hazardous agents may penetrate the equipment, and the wearer may become contaminated. Also, certain chemicals may break down the equipment, which would have to be replaced.
- Recontamination: Wearers may become contaminated as they remove their equipment unless decontamination and removal protocols are followed carefully.
Jeffrey L Arnold, MD, FACEP
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Raymond J Roberge, MD, MPH, FAAEM, FACMT
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