Personal protective equipment use for non-health workers

Information on using personal protective equipment (PPE) in non-health workplaces.

Last updated: 15 May 2020

At Alert Level 2 many people are back at work and we need to play it safe. This means operating differently. Staying home if you are unwell, following physical distancing and basic hygiene measures are the best ways to stop the spread and protect yourself, work colleagues and customers from COVID 19. The PPE advice on this page is likely to change as we move through Alert Level 2.

On this page:

Information about PPE in non-health workplaces

PPE refers to equipment such as face masks, eye protection or gloves normally worn to reduce everyday risks in the workplace, not just health care. Some workplaces already use PPE or wear a specific uniform to keep employees safe from the everyday risks of their particular job – this should continue.

In most workplaces outside of the health care setting, additional PPE for protection against COVID-19 is not required as we move into Alert Level 2. You, your co-workers and clients all staying at home if unwell, applying physical distancing and adhering to basic hygiene measures is the best form of protection.

As a precautionary measure for the initial phase of Alert Level 2, while we ensure the risk of exposure to COVID-19 continues to be very low, for people whose work cannot avoid close contact with clients (under 1 metre) for prolonged periods of time (longer than 15 minutes), with multiple clients being seen over the course of the day (eg, hairdressers and beauticians) a face mask or face shield should be considered as an additional measure to basic hygiene measures. Other than items the worker may usually wear for protection from standard occupational risks, no other PPE is required.

PPE may have been advised in workplaces where there is a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 through the nature of the work undertaken, such as border workers who interact regularly with people returning from overseas and in health and disability care settings.

If you choose to wear a facemask, it is important you put it on and take it off correctly. Similarly, if you choose to wear gloves, you must still practice good hand hygiene. Remember to dispose of any used PPE safely.

Read information on how to use PPE safely

Where to get PPE

Most non-health workers will not need PPE for protection from COVID-19. The risk of exposure is now considered low and manageable by sticking to the core actions: staying home if unwell, maintaining physical distancing and basic hygiene measures.

If you choose to wear a mask, contact your usual supplier. 

Stop the spread and protect from COVID-19

Most non-health workers are not required to use PPE for protection from COVID-19. There are simple ways to stop the spread and to protect yourself and others when you are working, and outside of work.

Talk to your manager if you have any concerns – it is important that you let your employer know how you are feeling and what you are worried about.

Stay at home if you are unwell

If you are unwell it is important you stay home from work. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • cough
  • high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell.

If you have any of these symptoms you should stay home and contact Healthline or your healthcare provider for advice. Read more information about symptoms on our health advice page.  

Check ahead that your client or customer is well, either by contacting them in advance before they come to your workplace, prior to them entering your workplace setting (for example, by using a poster), or before you visit their home or workplace. Reschedule their appointment if they are unwell.

Physical distancing 

Maintaining physical distancing of at least 1 metre between workers, co-workers and clients of unknown COVID-19 status is recommended in all workplaces. Each workplace will need to consider how they can meet and maintain this requirement (eg, use of physical barriers, supporting different ways of working, re-configuring the workplace or spacing entry into the workplace to allow for physical distancing, etc).

If physical distancing of 1 metre cannot be maintained because of the nature of work being undertaken, we recommend short interactions with as few people as possible. For people whose work cannot avoid close contact with clients (under 1 metre) for prolonged periods of time (longer than 15 minutes), with multiple clients being seen over the course of the day, please see the PPE information on this page for more details.

Basic hygiene measures  

In addition to staying home if unwell and maintaining physical distancing between yourself and others, the following basic hygiene measures are the most important steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe. 

  • Hand hygiene – Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds and dry them thoroughly. If unable to access soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol. If using sanitiser, ensure that you use enough to cover your hands and rub hands together until dry. 
  • Cough and sneeze etiquette – Remember to cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, put it in a bin and clean your hands.
  • Avoiding touching your face – This will prevent you becoming infected with virus you may have picked up by touching surfaces contaminated with infectious droplets.
  • Cleaning of surfaces and frequently touched items – It is important to keep your work area as clean as possible including staff rooms, toilets and kitchens. Frequently clean high-touch areas with an appropriate cleaning solution to reduce transmission of germs in general. If disinfectant wipes are used these must be disposed of correctly (not flushed). If you are working in someone else’s home, make sure you clean the work area prior to leaving at the end of the day.

Hand hygiene posters

These resources have been developed by the Health Quality Safety Commission.

Hand washing and PPE videos

These videos have been produced by Auckland DHB

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