Feeling unsure about how to use PPE appropriately or want to double check you’ve been doing everything you should be? This guide includes tips on how to use PPE effectively and highlights research on the effectiveness of using PPE properly.

Donning and doffing

There are different procedures for donning and doffing PPE depending on whether you are conducting an aerosol generating procedure or a non-aerosol generating procedure. Guidance on whether something is an aerosol or non-aerosol generating procedure.

Non-aerosol generating procedures:

Covid-19: Donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment in Health and Social Care Settings

Aerosol generating procedures:

Donning: Covid-19: Donning of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Doffing: Covid-19: Removal and disposal of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

How to wear a medical mask safely: do's and don'ts

  • Wash your hands before touching the mask
  • Inspect the mask for tears or holes
  • Find the top side, where the metal piece or stiff edge is
  • Ensure the coloured side faces outwards
  • Place the metal piece or stiff edge over your nose
  • Cover your mouth, nose and chin
  • Adjust the mask to your face without leaving gaps on the sides
  • Avoid touching the mask
  • Remove the mask from behind the ears or head
  • Keep the mask away from you and surfaces while removing it
  • Discard the mask immediately after use, preferably into a closed bin
  • Wash your hands after discarding the mask

Remember that masks alone cannot protect your from Covid-19. Maintain at least one metre distance from others and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, even while wearing a mask.

  • Do not use a ripped or damp mask
  • Do not wear the mask only over the mouth or nose
  • Do not wear a loose mask
  • Do not touch the front of the mask
  • Do not remove the mask to talk to someone or do other things that would require touching the mask
  • Do not leave your used mask within the reach of others
  • Do not re-use the mask

Remember that masks alone cannot protect your from Covid-19. Maintain at least one metre distance from others and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, even while wearing a mask.

How is Covid-19 spread?

“We know that the disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which spreads between people in several different ways. The virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe. These particles range from larger respiratory droplets to smaller aerosols.

Current evidence suggests that the virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, typically within 1 metre (short-range). A person can be infected when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.

The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range).”

World Health Organisation

How does PPE protect you?

When used appropriately, PPE acts as a barrier between infectious substances and your skin, mouth, nose, or eyes. The barrier can block the transmission of contaminants from blood, body fluids, or respiratory secretions. In terms of Covid-19, PPE can act as a barrier between infectious droplets or smaller aerosols and inhalation by your nose and mouth. When used properly and with other infection control practices such as hand-washing, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and covering coughs and sneezes, it minimises the spread of infection from one person to another.

Research into the effectiveness of proper PPE use

It can be difficult to find easily accessible statistics and data about the effectiveness of using PPE properly. Outlined below are several research studies into the effectiveness of PPE, mask-wearing, and other protective behaviours.

In a 2020 study, 420 healthcare workers using appropriate PPE were monitored for 6-8 weeks. All 420 of them had direct contact with patients with Covid-19 (Lui et al., 2020). During this period, none of the healthcare workers reported Covid-19 related symptoms and they all tested negative for Covid19 antibodies indicating that none of them had been infected with Covid-19. This suggests that using PPE appropriately provides good protection against Covid-19 infection.

A detailed analysis of over 30 different studies from around the world found that mask wearing was the most effective public health measure at reducing the incidence of Covid-19 (Talic et al., 2021). The results showed a statistically significant 53% reduction in the incidence of Covid-19 with mask wearing and a 25% reduction with physical distancing. Additionally, hand washing was associated with a reduction in the incidence of Covid-19. This indicates that protective behaviours such as mask wearing, handwashing and physical distancing can reduce the likelihood of becoming infected.

An experiment using high-speed video found that hundreds of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers were generated when speaking a phrase, but that nearly all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a cloth (Anfinrud, Stadnytskyi, Bax & Bax, 2020). Another study found similar effectiveness of mask wearing in reducing exposure to influenza or common cold viruses emitted in droplets and aerosols (Leung et al., 2020). These studies show that exposure to the Covid-19 virus via droplets and aerosols is reduced by mask wearing.

Wearing PPE appropriately significantly reduces your chances of becoming infected with coronavirus. Please follow PPE guidance and stay safe.

Useful contacts

If you are not feeling safe in your workplace due to Covid-19, the Citizens Advice Bureau has outlined a guide on what options you can take: Citizens Advice - if you're worried about working

If you would like to see some tips and advice relating to coronavirus and your mental wellbeing then visit this NHS page: NHS - Coronavirus

At Keeping Well BLMK, we can provide a safe, supportive space for you to talk about what’s going on for you. We can also help think with you about how you might want to access support and make onward referrals if needed.

To get in touch, message us on our live chat or give us a call on 01908 724 227. You can also request a call back or submit a self-referral form.

If you feel you need to talk to someone urgently call the Samaritans for free, non-judgemental, and confidential support on 116 123 or e-mail jo@samaritans.org


Updated on: 21/04/2022