Why PPE Must Really Protect

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic there is much being reported about PPE, and in particular, the distinct lack of it.

Cairn Technology has been a health and safety expert in the medical sector for over 20 years and has worked extensively with UK hospitals in providing top quality PPE for chemical spills, and training staff in the correct usage of the equipment. This puts us in a ideal position to enter the current debate on the situation in the UK.

The first thing to be aware of is that there are different grades of PPE. Frontline workers need equipment which meets certain standards, using lesser quality items puts them at risk of infection. And whilst there is an argument that says something is better than nothing, these people have a right to do their job with the correct equipment and protection.

Many organisations have responded to the shortage by manufacturing PPE, however, unless it can be verified to these standards it cannot be commissioned for frontline staff. By the same token, there are news reports that, for example, millions of facemasks have been offered to the government by UK companies. What isn’t properly reported is that these masks are either not of the standard required, or the prices are prohibitive.

Cairn has been working extensively with front line staff on face fit testing – to ensure that the FFP3 masks worn by those providing primary care fit with an effective seal around the face. This provides 96% protection for the wearer, and is why you may have seen pictures of doctors and nurses with bruised faces from long days wearing these items. To dispel another myth, surgical masks which simply cover the nose and mouth without creating an effective seal are not adequate for frontline staff.

The cost of one of the recommended FFP3 masks was previously in the £5-£6 bracket. The asking price for the few which are available is now around £40 per mask. This kind of unethical profiteering is preventing equipment from reaching the frontline. Whilst the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been unprecedented it is important that the public understand that all spending must be paid back somehow, at some future point.

It seems that some supplies of PPE are now reaching the frontline, but the need will continue long into the future. One of the best ways for us to keep frontline staff safe is to ensure that what equipment they are provided with is up to standard and provides adequate protection. The public getting caught up in the media storm and buying into unreliable reporting is not helpful and detracts from the task in hand.

As a long term supplier of PPE, Cairn Technology is working hard to try to source the correct equipment at a fair price, to enable us to continue long term relationships within the medical and care industries. Our customer relationships are built on trust and that is something that we will not be exploiting.

Watch this space for updates.