Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is providing support and advice to any members seeking information regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Join the NSWNMA to ensure you’re covered at work.
The Commonwealth Department of Health website contains detailed guidance for health sector workers and is updated regularly.
Escalation to moderate risk
Given the current context of local transmission, NSW Health is advising Local Health Districts (LHDs) and Specialty Health Networks (SHNs) to escalate to a moderate risk level (Amber). This requires all health workers wear a surgical mask if they are within 1.5m of patients. Patients are also required to wear a mask, where possible.
The new advice on mask use is underpinned by expert risk assessments. The recommendations are detailed in the COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Response and Escalation Framework and this poster.
Access Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the escalation to Amber Alert here.
If you are providing care for patients who have or are suspected to have COVID-19 or are working in a high-risk clinical area, your employer must provide you with appropriate PPE to ensure you can do your job safely. Such as:
- You are to wear prescribed PPE as instructed (your employer needs to ensure you are trained in how to use PPE safely).
- Do not undertake tasks requiring PPE if the PPE is not available for use. Any such tasks are not to proceed until required PPE is readily available.
- If you are concerned for your safety, you must raise your concerns immediately with your manager.
Where staff are performing tasks requiring P2/N95 mask use under the CEC guidelines and where the employee has fit checked the available P2/N95 mask sizes and these sizes are not a correct fit, then the employee is to be temporarily redirected to work which does not require the use of a P2/N95 mask until suitable masks with correct fit become available.
CEC guidelines around Respiratory Protection in Healthcare also state:
In NSW, LHDs/SHNs are required to implement respirator fit testing in their facilities for health workers (HWs) performing respiratory Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs) on patients with COVID-19 or providing clinical services to patients on airborne precautions in high risk areas.
What PPE do I need?
Refer to CEC guidance to determine the correct use of PPE in your area:
- Special Precautions for COVID-19 Designated Zones (added 28/4/2020)
- Infection Prevention and Control COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (added 28/4/2020)
- Quick Guide to PPE for the Emergency Department (05/01/20)
- Application of PPE in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic (added 05/01/2021)
- Principles of fit checking: how to don and fit check P2 and N95 masks (updated 19/3/2020)
Fit testing program
The NSW Government and Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) have recognised the need for clearer and consistent fit testing thanks to ongoing campaigning from unions. A fit testing program is now recognised as an addition to current infection prevention and control education and guidance on the adequate use of PPE.
Further details to ensure the safety of NSW Health workers at all times and during the COVID-19 crisis, can be found here.
When do I need to wear PPE?
Guidance on from the Clinical Excellence Commission directs nurses working in high-risk areas to wear PPE (previously it was only when working with confirmed or suspected cases).
Health workers caring for patients in high-risk clinical areas (see list below) should comply with contact and droplet precautions for all close contacts (gown, surgical mask, eye protection and gloves). When performing aerosol generating procedures, comply with contact, droplet and airborne precautions.
High-risk clinical areas include:
- Intensive Care Units (ICU)
- Emergency Departments (ED)
- COVID-19 Wards
- Acute Respiratory Assessment Clinics
A dedicated floor plan in Emergency Departments should be established that clearly designates areas assigned for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. If possible, consider rostering of staff to support the separation of areas and resourceful use of PPEs. For staff working directly in the area of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, PPE should be worn accordingly.
The Australian Government has also published recommendations for the use of PPE when caring for people with possible COVID-19 infection.
Report PPE concerns
If you have concerns that your employer is not providing you with the necessary PPE (or is making it very difficult to access) and/or is not training people in its safe use, then you should:
- Put in an incident report at your workplace
- Escalate your concerns to your manager in writing and ask for an urgent response
If your concerns are not being taken seriously, we can assist to ensure appropriate measures are in place. Contact us here. You can also contact SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50.