The Dangers of Reused Personal Protective Equipment: Healthcare Workers and Workstation Contamination

2022-06-07

Personal protective equipment is essential to protect healthcare workers (HCW). The practice of using reused personal protective equipment (PPE) poses high levels of risk for accidental contamination by healthcare workers. Scarce medical literature compares practical means or methods for safe PPE reuse while actively caring for patients. We observed 28 experienced clinical participants perform five donning and doffing encounters while performing simulated full COVID-19 patient evaluations. Participant N95 respirators were coated with a fluorescent dye to evaluate any accidental fomite transfer that occurred during PPE donning and doffing. Participants were evaluated using a blacklight after each doffing encounter to evaluate for new contamination sites and were assessed for the cumulative surface area that occurred due to PPE reuse doffing. Additionally, the participant’s workstations were evaluated for contamination. All participants experienced some amount of contamination to their upper extremities, neck, and face. The highest cumulative area of fomite transfer risk was associated with the hook and paper bag storage methods, and the least contamination occurred with the tabletop respirator storage method. We found that storing a reused N95 respirator on a tabletop is a safer alternative compared to the current CDC paper bag storage recommendations. All participants donning and doffing PPE were contaminated. The results suggest that the current design of PPE required improved engineering and usability. PPE reusage practices pose an unacceptably high level of risk of accidental cross infection contamination to healthcare workers.

Authors: Devin Doos, Paul Barach, Nathan J Alves, Lauren Falvo, Anna Bona, Malia Moore, Dylan D Cooper, Roxanna Lefort, Rami Ahmed
; Full Source: The Journal of hospital infection 2022 Jun 7;S0195-6701(22)00170-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2022.05.016.