In addition to assessing and modifying work environments and changing practices and policies to support the health of staff, establishing a plan and policy regarding the use and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff is another common workplace control. According to CDC, employers should 1) conduct a thorough workplace hazard assessment; 2) determine what PPE is needed for workers’ specific job duties based on hazards and other controls present; and, 3) select and provide appropriate PPE to the workers at no cost.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines the cooperative efforts between employers and employees to establish and maintain a safe and healthy work environment. In general, employers are responsible for:
• Performing a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
• Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees.
• Training employees in the use and care of the PPE.
• Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
• Periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.
In general, employees should:
• Properly wear PPE
• Attend training sessions on PPE
• Care for, clean and maintain PPE
• Inform a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE
What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
OSHA defines Personal Protective Equipment as “equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.”
PPE should be safely designed, fit comfortably and properly, and stored in a safe and clean space. PPE is considered an additional workplace control to ensure the health and safety of staff, but it’s also important to ensure that engineering, work practice and administrative controls are in place to provide protection. Employers must also train staff on how to use PPE, when it is necessary, what kind of PPE is required, proper care and maintenance, and proper use, adjustment and disposal.
Common Personal Protective Equipment
Disposable gloves are examples of PPE that are used to protect the wearer and/or the patient from the spread of infection or illness during medical procedures and examinations. Medical gloves are one part of an infection-control strategy.[i]
Gowns are examples of PPE used to protect the wearer from the spread of infection or illness if the wearer comes in contact with potentially infectious liquid and solid material. They may also be used to help prevent the gown wearer from transferring microorganisms that could harm vulnerable patients, such as those with weakened immune systems. Gowns are one part of an overall infection-control strategy.[i]
Eye protection provides a barrier to infectious materials entering the eye and is often used in conjunction with other PPE. The CDC recommends eye protection for a variety of potential exposure settings where workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure.[i]
Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure. CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may unknowingly have the virus from transmitting it to others. CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.[i]
Medical/Surgical Face Mask
A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. [i] A surgical mask is primarily used to protect patients and healthcare workers from people who may have a respiratory infection or to protect sterilized or disinfected medical devices and supplies. *A medical/surgical mask is not the same as a face covering.
An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. Note that the edges of the respirator are designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth. Surgical N95 Respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings and are a subset of N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs), often referred to as N95s.[i]
A respirator is designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne contaminants such as dust, fumes, vapors, and infectious agents associated with inhaling small and large particle droplets; guidance on appropriate selection and use is covered by OSHA’s respiratory protection and PPE standards.[i]
More information on types of PPE.
*Cloth face coverings are not considered PPE, but they may prevent workers, including those who do not know they have the virus, from spreading it to others. Cloth face coverings have not been shown to protect the wearers from exposure to the virus.
PPE Needs for Common Park and Recreation Positions
OSHA has divided job tasks into four risk exposure levels. Most park and recreation workers will likely fall in the lower exposure risk (caution) or the medium exposure risk levels. In some cases, park and recreation staff who are working directly with the potentially infectious patients (at a testing site or shelter location) may fall into the high exposure risk category. PPE need will differ between categories.
High Exposure Risk: Jobs with a high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. Park and recreation workers in this category may include:
• Staff deployed at testing sites
• Staff deployed at treatment sites
• Staff working at shelter sites
• Staff working at sites that provide healthcare
Medium Exposure Risk: Jobs that require frequent/close contact with people who may be infected, but who are not known or suspected patients. Park and recreation workers in this category may include:
• Janitorial and sanitation staff
• Staff who may have contact with the general public (childcare, summer camp, shelter, recreation center, senior center, events, aquatics, exercise instructors, etc.)
• Park rangers or law enforcement
• Park ambassadors
• Park service area staff
Low Exposure Risk: Jobs that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected. Park and recreation workers in this category may include:
• Outdoor maintenance staff
• Property management staff
• Administrative staff
Sample Park and Recreation Professional PPE Needs by Risk Classification
High Exposure Risk: PPE Needs
• Respirator (N95) or medical/surgical facemask when in contact with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19
• Eye protection when in contact with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19
• Disposable gloves when in contact with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 or handling belongings
• Disposable gowns when in contact with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 or handling belongings
Medium Exposure Risk
• Medical/surgical face mask or face covering
• Eye protection (depending on job duties and contact with confirmed/suspected cases (e.g. cleaning staff))
• Disposable gloves (depending on job duties and contact with confirmed/suspected cases (e.g. cleaning staff))
• Disposable gowns (depending on job duties and contact with confirmed/suspected cases (e.g. cleaning staff)
Low Exposure Risk
• Face covering when in contact with others closer than 6 feet for extended periods (greater than 10 mins.)
• Additional PPE (gloves, gowns, eye protection) depending on job duties if in contact with confirmed/suspected cases
Training and Proper Use and Disposal
Park and recreation professionals should be trained on proper use of PPE, including correct use of PPE, adjustment and disposal. Employers are required to train each employee in the following areas:
• When PPE is necessary
• What PPE is necessary
• How to properly put on, take off, adjust and wear the PPE
• The limitations of PPE
• Proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of PPE
Employees should demonstrate an understanding of the PPE training and the ability to properly wear and use PPE before they are authorized to perform work requiring PPE. CDC provides guidance and outlines methods of putting on and taking off PPE and provides several training videos on making face coverings, proper hand hygiene and more.
• How to Put On and Take Off PPE
• Hand Hygiene
• Training videos
• How to safely put on PPE
• How to safely remove PPE
• How to make your own face covering
• ASL cloth face coverings guidance
• What you need to know about handwashing │ Spanish │ ASL
Storage and Maintenance of PPE
All PPE should be of safe design and maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. PPE should be readily available to staff and frequently inspected to ensure safety. Larger inventory of PPE should be stored in a locked area that is dry, free from temperature extremes or chemicals. If storing respirators, access should be restricted to those that have the ability to distribute higher grade gear.
Shortages of PPE have been a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC has provided guidance on how to optimize the supply of PPE, and park and recreation professionals should follow this guidance closely to ensure that healthcare providers have access to the PPE they need to treat and care for patients.
Agencies should keep an inventory of PPE to monitor the supply and anticipate restocking needs. This should be monitored frequently, and agencies should plan in advance for delays in the supply chain. The CDC PPE Burn Calculator can be used to help estimate how much PPE will be needed.