Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 pandemic


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 pandemic

06 May 2020

Currently there is no change to expectations for providing PPE and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) for protecting people at work.

PPE COSHH requirements for work like spraying: Covid-19 has caused a significant rise in the demand for PPE and this should not be expected to stop as the pandemic begins to calm down.

PPE supplies may not be as freely available for organisations to purchase as before the pandemic. Organisations requirement of PPE in line with COSHH requirements will remain for work like spraying.  Organisations will need to manage their supplies as there will not only be a projected rise in request for supplies but also potential theft of supplies, which both come at a cost to an organisation. If PPE stock problems, could you for example use alternative equipment that provide at least the same level (or higher) of protection? Could you use a different (less hazardous substance)?

Without neglecting workers and refusing PPE, organisations need to be sensitive to workers needs following such a frightening and disruptive period.

If PPE is required, the COSHH assessment/ risk assessment should determine what PPE is necessary for the specific job/ task.

Points to consider:

  • Identifying what PPE is required for roles/ tasks will enable organisations to distribute the appropriate equipment to workers
  • Can all PPE be kept securely/checks made on the PPE to be made available?
  • If a worker is requesting PPE, is it required for the worker to complete the job/ task?
  • Is there a PPE issue form to document what PPE a worker has requested?
  • Does this list how frequently PPE is requested?

Masks for first aid kits?

Organisations have as a recommendation included a mask for first aiders on site as the first aider may potentially be exposed to risk or need to get closer than 2metres to administer first aid.

(Homemade face masks are considered ‘personal protective equipment’/face coverings, as such, facemask manufacturers have to meet standards and follow regulatory requirements for production, and it is unlikely home-made PPE will be made to a standard offering the wearer sufficient protection as required by a COSHH assessment).

The Scottish government has recommended people ‘cover their faces’ while in some enclosed public spaces, such as shops and public transport.

Currently the UK government is not advising most people to wear masks as a control measure for Covid-19

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control agrees that medical face masks should be prioritised for healthcare workers.  

Further guidance on first aid:

What to do if you are required to assist someone who is symptomatic and suspected of having COVID-19

Providing assistance:

If you need to provide assistance to an individual who is symptomatic and may have COVID-19, wherever possible, place the person in a place away from others. If there is no physically separate room, ask others who are not involved in providing assistance to stay at least 2 metres away from the individual. If barriers or screens are available, these may be used.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Use and dispose of all PPE according to the instructions and training previously provided by your employer or organisation. Disposable gloves and fluid repellent surgical face mask is recommended and, if available, disposable plastic apron and disposable eye protection (such as face visor or goggles) should be worn. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before putting on and after taking off PPE.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

If you are required to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation where possible, it is recommended that you do not perform rescue breaths or mouth-to-mouth ventilation; perform chest compressions only. Resuscitation Council (UK) Guidelines 2010 for Basic Life Support state that studies have shown that compression-only CPR may be as effective as combined ventilation and compression in the first few minutes after non-asphyxial arrest (cardiac arrest due to lack of oxygen).

If a decision is made to perform mouth-to-mouth ventilation in asphyxial arrest, use a resuscitation face shield where available.

Should you have given mouth-to-mouth ventilation there are no additional actions to be taken other than to monitor yourself for symptoms of possible COVID-19 over the following 14 days. Should you develop such symptoms you should follow the advice on what to do on the NHS website

4. Hand hygiene

After contact with the individual, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol hand rub at the earliest opportunity.

Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and/or nose, unless you have recently cleaned your hands after having contact with the individual.

There are no additional precautions to be taken in relation to cleaning your clothing other than what is usual practice.

5. Cleaning the area where assistance was provided

Cleaning will depend on where assistance was provided. It should follow the advice for cleaning in non-healthcare settings. All surfaces that the symptomatic individual has come into contact with must be cleaned and disinfected. 

6. If there has been a blood or body-fluid spill

Keep people away from the area. Use a spill-kit if available, using the PPE in the kit or PPE provided by your employer/organisation and following the instructions provided with the spill-kit. If no spill-kit is available, place paper towels/roll onto the spill, and seek further advice from emergency services when they arrive.

7. Contacts of the unwell person

If anyone had direct contact with the individual and makes themselves known to you, advise them that if they go on to develop symptoms (cough, fever), they should follow the advice on what to do on the NHS website

8. What to do if you become unwell following contact with someone who may be at risk of COVID-19

If you have already been given specific advice from your employer or Public Health England (PHE) about who to call if you become unwell, follow that advice.

Otherwise, if you develop symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, you will need to stay at home for 7 days - refer to the advice on the NHS website and the Stay at home guidance.


You can find further up-to-date information on GOV.UK,

and in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland from the:

For Ireland: