Women report more difficulties with PPE than men, report finds

Women in healthcare report significantly more problems when it comes to PPE than men, a report has foundWomen in healthcare report significantly more problems when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE) than men, a report has found.

The study looks into the hospital PPE supplied to protect against the threat of COVID-19.

Involving teams from Loughborough University and the University Hospitals of NHS trusts in Leicester, the researchers analysed more than 400 clinicians.

Results showed that masks, visors, glasses and gloves were causing more difficulties for women than their male counterparts.

Significant differences

Professor Sue Hignett, of the Loughborough Design School, led the study. ‘Even with the intense demands on clinical staff during this period we received responses from more than 400 clinicians, and importantly from 292 women (72%) which is representative of 70% NHS workforce,’ she said.

‘Women reported significantly more difficulty with communication than men when wearing surgical masks and visors. They told us: “Apparently masks for smaller faces don’t exist”.

‘We also found significant differences for women in the fit of safety glasses – including over prescription glasses.

‘Other issues for both women and men included problems in operating clinical equipment due to double gloves, such as sutures. They also reported troubles with central line insertion, as well as using touch screens to record information and change drug doses.’

The report concluded with a number of key messages:

  • PPE needs to be designed for the people who wear it – differences between women and men
  • It needs to support communication – seeing, hearing, talking
  • It needs to be included in task design – for example, loss in dexterity with double gloves, risk of error
  • Additionally, PPE injuries to healthcare workers – for example, heat stress, skin breakdown, musculoskeletal injuries.

Design better PPE

Professor Hignett added that healthcare clinicians should be supported against infections in the same way firefighters are protected against hazards.

‘Firefighters have special training for working in PPE and are trained to managed fatigue and overheating,’ she said.

‘Our NHS staff do not seem to have been supported in this way and I am really worried that they have suffered avoidable occupational injuries.

‘There needs to be human factors/ergonomics research to design better PPE for our NHS staff.’

Face mask warning

This comes as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) urges dentists to avoid a particular face mask over fears it does not protect against COVID-19.

The safety warned both dental teams and suppliers against purchasing or using KN95 face masks.

No independent certification or quality assurance is required to distribute the mask. Additionally, they are often accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork.

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