Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to protect people from hazards, such as infectious diseases. PPE refers to any equipment worn to reduce exposure to a specific hazard (e.g., masks, gowns, gloves).
PPE plays an important role in protection; however, PPE should not be the only measure used to reduce the risks of exposure. The Hierarchy of Controls is a framework to eliminate or reduce hazards, and includes: elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE. Learn more about the hierarchy of controls by visiting Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s: Hazard and Risk – Hierarchy of Controls.
When other measures cannot adequately control the hazard, PPE is used. When you are using PPE it is important to always do a risk assessment when determining the level of PPE needed. To support you in determining which PPE you should use (e.g., gloves, gowns, or masks), visit Public Health Ontario’s Risk Algorithm to Guide PPE Use.
It is important to make sure you know how to put on and remove your PPE to prevent contamination and illness. The Public Health Ontario resources below can help you learn proper techniques.
How to Put On PPE
How to Remove PPE
Masking is one of many control measures that work together to prevent the spread of infection. Masks should be used in combination with other measures including, but not limited to: hand hygiene, physical distancing, physical barriers, and other PPE. Improper use of face masks can put you at risk. Make sure you know how to safely use a face mask.
- Clean your hands before and after touching your mask.
- Remove mask by grasping the ear ties only.
- Once removed, put mask directly into a waste receptacle.
- Ensure the mask fits snuggly with no gaps at the cheeks, chin, or top of the nose.
- Don’t touch the front of you mask when wearing or removing the mask.
- Don’t slide your mask to your forehead, chin, or neck while wearing it. The mask should stay securely in place for the duration you wear it for.
- Don’t put your mask away for later use – throw out single use masks after each use.
- Don’t use your mask when it is damp or dirty. A mask can become soiled when wearing it – get a new mask if this occurs, as the mask no longer provides the same protection.
For more information on masks visit:
- Ontario: Using masks in the workplace
- Government of Canada: COVID-19 medical masks and respirators: For health professionals
According to the Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee (PIDAC), several studies provide evidence that wearing gloves can help reduce transmission of pathogens in health care settings. However, gloves do not provide complete protection against hand contamination. Here are a few tips on glove use:
- Clean your hands before and after glove use, as your hands can be contaminated, even if they are not visibly soiled.
- Make sure your hands are dry when you put gloves on.
- The glove should fit your hand properly. They should be snug but be easily donned and doffed.
- Put on gloves, taking care not to tear or puncture glove.
- Never reuse gloves.
- When you take gloves off, throw them in a waste receptacle.
- Do not use soap or alcohol based hand rub (ABHR) while wearing gloves.
- Do not double glove unless you are trained to do so.
Learn how to don and doff gloves:
Putting gloves on (Video)
- Putting on Gloves (Public Health Ontario) – English
- Mettre des gants (Santé publique Ontario) – French
Taking gloves off (Video)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is meant to provide protection and keep the person wearing it safe. Modifying PPE (such as cutting or adding materials, improper fit or sizing, etc.) reduces the effectiveness of PPE. Wearing PPE as directed ensures the safety of the person wearing it. The following are answers to questions about modifying PPE.
Can mouth guards be used under a face mask to make breathing easier?
No, the use of a mouth guard is not advised in combination with a medical mask. There is insufficient evidence regarding its potential impact on the performance of the medical mask and respiratory droplet barrier in a workplace setting.
Can I alter the shape or the size of my face shield?
No. Changing the size or shape of the face shield alters the effectiveness. A face shield fits properly and will protect you when:
- It covers the sides of the face and below the chin.
- The band is placed on the widest part of the forehead.
Remember, do not touch the front of the face shield when removing.
Can prescription glasses be worn with side shields added?
No. Prescription eyeglasses are not considered eye protection, regardless of modifications. The perimeter of eyeglasses are still open to respiratory droplet entry. Best practice and occupational health requirements restrict the use of prescription glasses as PPE, even with modifications. Recommendations for adequate eye protection are limited to:
- face shield;
- goggles; and
- visor attached to a mask.
Remember: Modifications to PPE are not acceptable.