Donning and Doffing PPE Correctly to Fight Against COVID-19

It is important that workers know how to properly put on and take off their PPE to protect themselves and those in their households.

COVID-19 continues to be a concern for everyone. As we experience an increase in cases in many areas of the United States, it is important to ensure that the PPE you’ve chosen is properly protecting workers from all the hazards they encounter in the workplace, including COVID-19.

When properly fitted, coveralls and other PPE can help keep workers protected from toxins during their shifts. While the PPE selection process is important to achieving the appropriate level of protection, it is also essential that workers follow best practices during the donning and doffing process to ensure that they remain protected from “take-home toxins” that could put them or their families at risk.

What Are Take-home Toxins, and How Can I Prevent Them from Spreading?

The CDC advises that workers can unknowingly bring home hazardous substances on their clothes, bodies, tools and other items. These substances are known as take-home toxins.

Family members may be exposed to these harmful toxins, which can circulate through household air and become embedded in furniture, laundry and other household objects once they’ve been introduced into the home. These toxins can cause various health effects for themselves or their families.

Making sure your PPE is properly selected, fitted and used is key to keeping you protected while on the job site—but what happens once you leave? When it comes to preventing the spread of toxins after your shift, it’s essential to follow proper donning and doffing procedures so that these hazardous substances and contaminants don’t have the opportunity to find their way onto your skin and clothes and, subsequently, into your home.

What is Donning and Doffing?

Donning (or putting on) the required PPE is crucial before entering an area with any potential hazard.

Doffing (or taking off) the PPE should be a slow and deliberate process that takes into consideration any potential points of contact with contaminated gear. Taking off protective gear should be done carefully and thoughtfully to ensure that the contaminants workers have been exposed to during their shift are not able to breach the barrier that the PPE provides.

Donning and doffing is one of the main steps where contamination occurs, so it’s particularly important to learn the proper procedures for putting on and taking off your PPE. These procedures may differ slightly depending on the specific application for your PPE. Please make sure to follow standard operating procedures established at your workplace.

Proper Donning Procedures

Donning a protective coverall correctly is instrumental to the performance of the garment. Once the appropriate coverall has been chosen, a contamination-free changing room should be made available away from the workplace for workers to get dressed. The worker should then do the following:

• Find a safe place to sit and confirm proper garment size before beginning.

• While sitting, put protective foot covers (if used) over your footwear and secure.

• Carefully put each foot into the legs of the coverall.

• Put on and securely lace your safety shoes or boots if required for your application.

• Put on the correct gloves for your application. If using two sets of gloves, put on only the first set now.

• Stand up and pull the coverall up to your waist.

• Place your arms into the sleeves.

• Before zipping the coverall fully, put on any eye protection or protective masks you’ll be wearing. Ensure eye protection and masks fit correctly, are comfortable and contain no gaps.

• Pull the hood over your head.

• Fully zip the coverall and push the zipper down to lock.

• If wearing a second pair of gloves, put the second pair on over the first pair, covering the coverall’s wrist and sleeves.

• Seal all gaps and joints with adhesive tape, including the ends of the gloves and around the face where the hood meets the mask.

• Fold a tab on the end of the tape to make it easier to remove during doffing.

• Have a colleague confirm that the suit is donned correctly and that all gaps are sealed.

Proper Doffing Procedures

Removing protective gear should be done with great care so that there is no accidental cross-contamination from the garment’s surface to the wearer’s skin, hair or to other employees. Having the help of an assistant during the doffing process can further ensure the proper steps are followed.

• Find a safe place to remove gear.

• Before taking off the protective clothing, it’s advised to clean the gloves and boots, if applicable, in order to prevent dust and other toxins from being released into the air. Masks and zip covers should be wiped clean too.

• Carefully remove adhesive tape from coverall and immediately dispose of it into a specified waste container provided for this purpose.

• After removing the outer pair of gloves (if used), the wearer (or assistant) should begin by unzipping the coverall.

• Next, carefully roll the hood back against itself, taking care not to let the outside of the coverall touch the wearer’s head.

• Continue rolling the coverall outwards against itself, rolling it down over your shoulders.

• Carefully pull each arm out of its sleeve.

• Continue to roll the coverall out and down until it’s around your knees.

• At this point, sit down and continue rolling coveralls down over your knees until completely removed. Again, during this step, make sure the contaminated side is not touched and does not come into contact with your street clothing or skin.

• Carefully remove each shoe or boot cover (if used), rolling each cover outwards against itself (inside out), taking care to not to allow it to come into contact with your street clothing.

• Discard the suit, holding it by the non-contaminated inner surface to prevent contact with any hazardous substances or toxins.

• Carefully remove your first glove, turning it inside out as it comes off. Once you’ve removed the first glove, wad that up inside your gloved second hand.

• Slip your thumb under the cuff of your remaining glove, taking care not to touch the outside of the glove with your bare hand. Roll that glove outwards—over the first—until your second hand is free.

• After removing PPE, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, if available.

How Can Employers Help Ensure Proper Donning and Doffing of PPE?

To help make sure that workers are donning and doffing their PPE properly, employers can:

• Provide a dedicated, contamination-free changing room that is located away from the rest of the work area.

• Require comprehensive training for workers on procedures and encourage regular practice and/or audits.

• Consider using an assistant system to ensure that protocol is followed.

• Provide an onsite receptacle for used protective gear that will be disposed of properly according to local, state or federal regulations for hazardous materials. This ensures that no PPE leaves the premises, potentially spreading contaminants to workers’ vehicles or homes.

With thoughtful focus on proper donning and doffing procedures each and every time, workers can help protect their families, their colleagues and themselves from the toxins they’ve encountered on the job.

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