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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used in the dentist work environment
In a dentist environment, personal protective equipment (PPE) will need to be worn by personnel to ensure that they are protected from the biological hazards that they could potentially be exposed to. The employer has a duty to undertake a risk assessment to determine what the PPE requirements are for the different staff roles. For example, a dentist assistant will require different PPE than perhaps a cleaner or another identified role. The type of PPE will be recorded in a risk assessment. This risk assessment should aim to cover the 5 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) steps which are:
- Identify the hazards;
- Decide who might be harmed and how;
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions;
- Record your significant findings;
- Review the assessment and update if necessary.
So what is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
PPE is clothing or equipment such as aprons, masks, safety shoes, gloves, goggles or other protective items to protect the worker from health or safety risks at work. PPE also protects the service user from any biological hazards which may be present on staff clothing or hands caused by earlier cross-contamination.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations is the key legislation applicable to the use of PPE within the work environment.
The employer must supply PPE as identified within the risk assessments for each work activity. The PPE must be supplied free of charge. The PPE must be fit for the purpose it was intended to be used for. For example, there are many different types of face or eye protections available and the most suitable must be chosen. Goggles may not be suitable during certain dentist procedures whereas a face visor may be more appropriate. The employer should do regular checks to make sure the PPE is used correctly by staff. The employer should check that the PPE purchased is CE marked where required.
All staff should ensure they cooperate with their employer by using the PPE required. They will be responsible for reporting any defects in the PPE and to ensure they are not using any defective PPE. They should inspect it before they use it to check it is in good order and not defective. Staff should attend any training provided on the use of PPE and read any specific documentation relating to the use of PPE that the employer provides. Staff should not misuse PPE in any way. PPE should be used at all times where it is required.
How to use PPE
The employer must ensure staff know how to use the issued PPE correctly and provide information, instructions and training where necessary. All PPE items will come with safety information from the manufactures that will contain the relevant information.
Maintenance of PPE
The PPE must be maintained and inspected regularly to ensure it is fit for purpose and has not deteriorated due to age or use. It should be cleaned when necessary and if it is a single use item then it must be disposed of.
Storage of PPE
The PPE purchased must be stored correctly. Adequate arrangement must be in place for staff to change into the protective clothing. Replacement PPE should be stored in a suitable place where it will not deteriorate with light. It should not be stored in any ‘dirty’ areas as cross contamination may occur.
QCS have guidance and policies to support your service in meeting the requirements of health and safety.
Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor