Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Wearing face masks and PPE is second nature for healthcare workers. But what is the latest advice on PPE to keep you safe?
Here you'll find:
- What PPE to wear in what situations
- How to put on (don) and take off (doff) your PPE
- Updates on supply
- Information on fit checking and fit testing
Putting on and taking off PPE
Staff in all healthcare environments must wear some sort of PPE, and it is important to know the correct way to put on and take off your PPE to protect yourself.
This short video shows how to put on (don) and take off (doff) each PPE component including masks and gowns.
If you are not sure what PPE you need, check the signage in your workplace or ask your supervisor.
This video will help you learn the correct donning and doffing PPE procedure.
The correct use of PPE is critical to preventing the spread of infection, including coronavirus.
PPE will help to protect you, and the people you care for.
PPE is one part of the hierarchy of controls and should not be relied upon as the only measure taken to prevent transmission.
PPE includes a surgical mask or P2/N95 respirator, eye protection, disposable gloves and a long-sleeved gown.
Wearing PPE for extended periods can be uncomfortable, but it is very important that you wear the correct PPE when it is required.
Wherever possible, work with a buddy when putting on (‘donning’) and taking off (‘doffing’) PPE.
It is Important to don all PPE before entering the patient or resident’s room.
Before starting, perform hand hygiene.
Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Next put on your gown.
Fully cover your torso from neck to knee and arms to the end of the wrists.
Wrap the gown around your back.
Fasten the gown at the back of your neck and waist. Do the waist ties up at the back or side of your gown. Not at the front.
Put on your surgical mask or P2/N95 respirator, whichever you are required to wear. A surgical mask is used for droplet precautions and a P2/N95 respirator for airborne precautions.
Secure the ties or elastic bands at the middle of the head and the neck.
If there are loops at the side of the mask, secure these over your ears.
Mould the flexible band to the bridge of your nose.
Ensure the mask is fitted snug to the face and below the chin.
If you are using a P2/N95 respirator, always conduct a fit check.
Refer to the manufacturers’ instructions for fit checking of individual brands and types of respirators.
Next put on your protective eyewear or face shield.
Place the protective eyewear or face shield over your eyes and face and adjust to fit.
Finally, you need to put on gloves.
Extend these to cover the cuff of your long-sleeved gown.
You are now ready to enter the patient or resident’s room.
Remember that the 5 moments for hand hygiene still apply even when you are wearing PPE.
If, at any point, your gloves become contaminated, replace them with a new pair after performing hand hygiene.
You will need to start removing PPE when you're still in the patient or resident’s room. Do this as far away as possible from the patient such as the door to exit the room.
When taking off or doffing PPE, the principle is to avoid contaminating your clothes, skin or mucous membranes with potentially contaminated PPE.
Do not touch the front of the gown, eye protection or mask.
And most importantly, make sure you're very thorough when performing hand hygiene.
Healthcare workers that have been trained and are competent at removing their gown and gloves in one step may opt to do these steps together.
First, take off your gloves.
Remember that the outside of the gloves are contaminated – do not touch them with your bare hands.
Using a gloved hand, grasp the palm of the other gloved hand and peel off the first glove.
Hold the removed glove in your gloved hand.
Slide the fingers of the ungloved hand under the remaining glove at the wrist and peel off the second glove over first glove.
Discard the gloves into a waste bin or receptacle.
Perform hand hygiene.
Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Next, take off your gown.
Do not touch the front or sleeves of the gown.
Unfasten the gown ties at the waist first and then at the neck. Take care that the sleeves don’t contact your body when reaching for ties. Pull the gown away from your neck and shoulders, touching the inside of the gown only.
Turn the gown inside out. Fold or roll it into a bundle and discard into a waste bin or receptacle.
And again, perform hand hygiene.
Now you can leave the patient or resident’s room.
Perform hand hygiene again after leaving the room.
The next step is to take off the protective eye wear or face shield, remembering that the front could be contaminated.
Remove the protective eye wear or face shield from the back (if it has an elastic band) or by the side arms without touching the front of the eye wear or shield.
If it is disposable, place into a waste bin or receptacle.
If it is reusable, clean and disinfect it yourself at this point or place into a receptacle designed to transport it to where it is to be reprocessed.
And again perform hand hygiene.
Take off your surgical mask or respirator.
Remember that the front of the mask could also be contaminated.
Do not touch it.
If your mask has ties, undo the bottom ties first then the top ones.
If they have loops, remove the loops from around the ears.
Pull the mask away from your face without touching the front of the mask using the ties or loops.
Dispose of the mask into a waste bin or receptacle.
And finally, perform hand hygiene once again.
If you see someone breach their PPE in any way, for example, by touching their face or mask with a gloved hand, you should draw their attention to this and rectify it immediately.
Remember, the appropriate use of PPE helps keep you safe, as well as the people you care for.
PPE quality and supply
We know there are some concerns about PPE supply shortages, but we want to reassure you that there is more than a years’ supply of PPE for staff across the state. In addition, the Australian Government has a of PPE in case of emergency when supply might be short.
For more information, visit:
PPE supply update
Victoria has ample reserves of PPE for healthcare workers. This keeps you safe at work, every day.
We update the available PPE supply in Victoria each week.
We have millions of items on hand including N95 respirators, hand sanitiser and surgical face masks.
You can find:
- weeks of supply at current and peak rates
- N95 respirators supply by brand.
Fit checking and fit testing respirators
Face respirators are the most common PPE you will wear, with everyone in healthcare settings required to wear one.
You can make sure your respirator fits correctly by performing regular fit checks. This involves:
- placing the respirator on the face so the top rests on your nose and the bottom is secured under your chin.
- placing the top strap or ties over the head and positioning it high on the back of the head.
- pulling the bottom strap over your head and positioning it around your neck and below your ears
- placing fingertips from both hands at the top of the nosepiece. Using two hands, mould the nose area to the shape of your nose by pushing inward while moving your fingertips down both sides of the nosepiece
- checking the negative pressure seal (there should be no valve or filter within a respirator) of the respirator by covering the filter with both hands or a non-permeable substance (for example, plastic bag) and inhaling sharply. If the respirator is not drawn in towards the face, or air leaks around the face seal, readjust the respirator and repeat the process, or check for defects in the respirator
- always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for fit checking of individual brands and types of P2/N95 respirators.
Fit testing is another way to make sure you are wearing the best respirator for your face shape and size and is done through fit testing machines.
While not all staff need to wear respirators, if you’re required to wear a respirator you should be fit tested.
Fit testing is being introduced to health services as part of their Respiratory Protection Program for staff who need to wear respiratory protective equipment while at work.
High risk areas like Intensive Care Units and Emergency Departments have been the first to be fit tested but it will be introduced in many workplaces.
More than 53,000 people have already been fit tested across 69 healthcare services. Talk to your employer to see when fit testing is coming to you.
Reviewed 06 May 2022