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Coronavirus: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and employer responsibility


United Kingdom

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many organisations have noted that they are running low on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Below we outline what responsibility employers have regarding the PPE to their employees who need it to safely carry out their roles


We are all navigating unchartered waters as business and society faces up to the impact of COVID-19.  We very much hope you and your loved ones remain in good health. 

 Please be assured that Fieldfisher is continuing to work with clients to navigate COVID-19 related issues and on business as usual needs.  Do get in touch with us if you would like to chat anything through.

On Friday March 20th, Public Health England published a guidance document on the on supply and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for use by all NHS staff. The guidance reduces the level of the PPE that staff need to wear.

Previously for example in efforts to protect the respiratory airways, healthcare staff were advised to wear full PPE, comprising an FFP3 masks, visors, surgical gowns and two pairs of gloves each. However, the new advice recommends a standard surgical face mask, short gloves and a plastic apron. The content of the document can be read here.

Currently in the UK there is a shortage of PPE equipment. Based on World Health Organisation (WHO) modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month. Recent WHO guidance calls for the rational and appropriate use of PPE in healthcare settings, and the effective management of supply chains. To meet rising global demand, WHO estimates that industry must increase manufacturing by 40%.

Employers have a duty of care under the Control of Substances Hazardous Health 2002 (COSHH) to assess and reduce the risks from exposure to biological hazards to employees. Under COSHH employers need to identify who may be harmed by a biological agent through risk assessment and how they may be exposed.

Guidance from Public Health England, Health Protection Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive outlines the procedures required in the COSHH assessment and what steps need to be taken including the identification of potential patients with COVID-19, isolation procedures and precautions such as negative pressure ventilation and the provision and safe use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).


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