Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Frequently Asked Questions
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What rules and regulations guide PPE
policy development for local health departments?
Program development at the local health departments
is guided by OSHA
General PPE Requirements Standard 29CFR1910
Subpart I and Wisconsin
COMM Chapter 32. The
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an agency
within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is
responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the
prevention of work-related illnesses and injuries. NIOSH and OSHA have
released guidance documents for instituting a PPE program.
What are the critical components of a PPE program?
A written PPE program consists of:
How often should the PPE Policy and Procedures be updated?
They should be reviewed annually and as needed per
agency protocol. Depending
on the outcome of this review, they may need to be updated. For example, it may be
necessary to reassess the workplace hazard situation periodically to
identify and evaluate new equipment and processes, review accident
records, and reevaluate the suitability of previously selected PPE.
Who should be the PPE program’s
The program administrator should possess skills and
knowledge in infection control practices, communicable disease
investigation and follow-up, and environmental heath hazards including
airborne dust, mist, particles, or vapors, liquid chemicals, objects
that can strike, crush, puncture, scrape, bruise, or cut, overhead
materials, and loud noises. In addition, the administrator should
possess skills identified as essential for all public health workers by
the Council on Linkages between Academia and Public Health Practice in
Policy Development/Program Planning Skills
Basic Public Health Sciences Skills
Cultural Competency Skills
Financial Planning and Management Skills
Leadership and Systems Thinking Skills
Community Dimensions of Practice Skills
How often does the employer need to provide
training for staff requiring PPE?
Initial training must be done prior to use of PPE,
and thereafter when an employer has reason to believe that an employee
does not understand PPE use, or when there are changes
in the workplace or types of PPE that render previous training obsolete.
Who can provide training?
There are no specific requirements for the person
assigned to provide training; however, it is best to select someone with
knowledge in this area.
How much PPE should we stockpile for pandemic influenza?
The respirator and facemask calculator for Pandemic
Influenza: A Tool for Wisconsin Local Public Health Agencies is
available as an Excel spreadsheet calculator tool to estimate the amount
of respirators and face mask PPE a local public health agency may
consider stockpiling in anticipation of an influenza pandemic. An
accompanying document provides the assumptions, background information,
and directions for using the calculator.
How should PPE be stored?
Generally PPE should be stored in a dry area at
room temperature, protected from dust and moisture. Check with the
manufacturer for more specific storage conditions.
Some items may have expiration dates and will require rotation of
stock to avoid outdating.
What are examples when public health would require use
Some examples include:
Wearing an N95 respirator when providing
Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) for a client with active
Wearing gloves when drawing blood
Wearing earplugs when assessing a windstorm
site where chain saws are in use to clear trees blocking roadways
Wearing a hardhat when inspecting a kitchen at
construction site for a new restaurant
Wearing shoe covers when investigating a human
health hazard complaint about animal feces in a home
Where and how do I document use of PPE in an
emergency or disaster?
In an emergency situation when the Incident Command
System (ICS) is used, the Incident Action Plan Safety Analysis
(ICS-215A) form should be completed by the Safety Officer in accordance
with the agency’s PPE Program. The
215A form includes the recommended PPE to be used to respond to a public
health emergency. The
Operational Planning Worksheet (ICS-215) form may be used to track and
document the type and number of PPE resources that are required, on
hand, and needed during an event.
ICS forms ICS-215 and ICS-215A are available at
National Incident Management System Implementation > FDA Incident
Command System (ICS) Forms.
The Site Safety and Health Plan for PPE (ICS-208-CG SSP-F) Form
is available to document the PPE equipment and procedures used for
all-hazard situations and is available at http://www.uscg.mil/forms/ics/ICS_208_CG.pdf.
How much and what type of PPE should be stockpiled by home health agencies, group homes, EMS, and
These agencies are responsible for providing their
employees with current day-to-day supplies of appropriate PPE as well as
ensuring that sufficient supplies are available during a public health
emergency. PPE should be ordered directly from suppliers, as other
sources such as hospitals or public health agencies will not have
stockpiles to distribute to employers in their area.
Will the local health department provide PPE
to other emergency responders in a public health emergency?
Under OSHA standards
(Standard 29CFR 1910 Subpart
I) employers are required to provide PPE to reduce hazardous exposure to
their employees. However,
the local health department may consider procuring PPE
for other responders that have responsibilities built into the local
Public Health Emergency Plan (PHEP).
This should be included in the local hazard assessment analysis to
answer the question, “Have you included emergency responders
/volunteers in your local PHEP plan that may require use of PPE?”
Should local health departments purchase supplies of respirators or masks for use by the general public?
No. You should not purchase these items for the
general public. Consider having these items on hand only at mass clinics
or local health departments where members of the general public may
present with signs and symptoms of communicable diseases.
Does the general public need PPE?
No, there currently are no specific recommendations
or requirements for the general public to purchase, use or stockpile PPE.
In May 2007, the FDA cleared for marketing two special types of N95
respirators for use by the general public to add to their home medical
This type of PPE is available to help reduce a person's exposure to
airborne germs during a range of public health medical emergencies, such
as a worldwide outbreak (pandemic) of influenza or a biological
terrorist threat such as anthrax. The two respirators (called the
3M N95 Respirator 8612F and 8670F) are available to the general public
to purchase without a prescription. The use of face masks
or respirators may be helpful for persons at higher risk of
complications from pandemic influenza or for those who must be in close
contact with others during a pandemic. Note: The general
public does not have to follow any state or federal laws to use these
PPE devices that employers are required to follow, such as medical
evaluation, fit testing and training.
What is the definition of a volunteer for the
purposes of coverage by OSHA standards?
OSHA defines a volunteer as someone who receives no
form of compensation from the entity using the services of the
volunteer. This includes
uniforms and meals. However,
an occasional celebration that includes a meal does not negate volunteer
Are local health departments required to
provide PPE to volunteers, partners and others from outside their agency
who volunteer to respond to assist their agency?
Healthcare workers and other volunteers assigned to
assist in a public health emergency will be treated and provided the
same protections as employees, under OSHA law.
Volunteers will be provided training, supplies and equipment at
no cost to them on how to safeguard and protect them during the
emergency response as appropriate, including use of PPE.
To the extent possible, volunteers will not be assigned to perform
tasks with potential hazardous exposure.
What type and level of PPE does a volunteer
Volunteers should use only the type and level PPE
they are assigned to use and provided training to use.
This should never include any advanced level PPE or high-level,
hazardous materials level equipment.
If I work for another agency as a volunteer,
which PPE policies and procedures do I follow - ones from the agency I
work for or from the agency I volunteer to work for?
Follow all safety procedures, including PPE use,
from the agency for which you are volunteering. It is the responsibility
of the receiving agency to provide staff and volunteers with training on
the PPE to use to respond to the event before the PPE is issued to you.
If volunteers need respiratory PPE that
requires medical evaluation and fit testing, should the receiving agency
require the volunteers to have their own medical evaluation and fit
testing done, or does my home agency have to provide it?
The receiving agency, not the volunteer, is
responsible for providing medical evaluation, fit testing and training
to those needing respiratory protection. Volunteers should be given the
same protections, including use of all appropriate PPE, as employees
when responding to an event.
If a local public health agency enlists the
aid of employees from other agencies or from volunteers during a public
health emergency, is the local public health agency required to provide
PPE for them as if they were their own employees?
Local public health agencies should protect
volunteers and employees from other agencies in the same way they
protect their own employees.
Is fit-testing and medical evaluation
required during a public health emergency?
There may be limited time when deploying people to
respond to an emergency.
All components of a respiratory protection program
should be conducted during a public health emergency, including
fit-testing, medical evaluation, and training, in order to protect
employees and volunteers to the greatest extent possible. However, OSHA
officials have indicated that health care organizations will not be
fined for practices that occur during an infectious disease outbreak.
If you have any questions, email Gwen Borlaug at
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August 14, 2014