PPE Guidance (07/04/2020)

 

Whilst guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) has existed for around thirty years it is only with the coronavirus outbreak that we have got used to seeing front line staff wearing specific protective equipment whilst respecting social distancing rules and preventing disease contamination. It has also prompted discussion on who needs this equipment and where you can get it.

 

Each ADCH member should make its own interpretation of the Government Coronavirus framework rules as to whether they require such equipment for this staff, but should think carefully about what level of risk exposure for their staff, which will depend on how essential they deem their business and what interaction is required from the public. At present the Government framework is clear – it only defines key workers as charity frontline workers and those involved in veterinary equipment and only defines essential businesses as the pet business and veterinary work. All other journeys and activities are restricted which is why most rescue centres have closed to intake and rehoming and the daily work of ADCH members has changed completely, particularly in interaction with the public.

The RSPCA has designated three types of staff as qualifying under the Government’s designation of a charity front line key worker, including those that work in our inspectorate rescuing animals, investigating cruelty and those rehabilitating those animals in our centres. As our staff are our most important asset it is vital they have the right protective clothing and equipment to go about their daily job whilst respecting the Government coronavirus restrictions, particularly around respecting social distancing restrictions. The RSPCA has written protocols to ensure our staff can work safely and also has designated PPE that key staff need to carry out their daily work. These include disposal gloves, overshoes, overalls and face masks as well as hand sanitisers to prevent disease being spread.

 

There are three simple rules to follow: Firstly, and most importantly, the issue is not on the availability of PPE for rescue organisations. It is questioning the need for it in the first place given the Government’s restrictive framework around what is essential business and how any interaction with members of the public ensures spread of the disease is as restricted as possible.

 

Secondly the organisation must set clear guidance and safe working practices which need to be in place and updated as and when risks are identified as guidance changes. For instance, the RSPCA is reviewing the need to wear face masks but at the time of writing the Government advice is that these are not a required PPE for our inspectorate work.

 

Thirdly train and educate your front line staff as to what the requirements are in terms of risk assessment, safe working systems and correct use of PPE. There is no point in having the best PPE if the person has not been trained how to use it properly.

 

Procuring PPE has been challenging but we are now in a position where all key designated staff have access to such equipment. If you decide as an organisation that you need PPE, it is best to access this through your known suppliers such as Murrays Uniform ( https://www.murrayuniforms.com/), Covetrus( https://covetrus.com/) and Commercial (https://commercial.co.uk/). Bulk orders of PPE have been placed based on a four month projected need. But you may find that supply chains are under strain so accept that supplies will be on part order delivery basis and where needed alternatives are sought such as using local suppliers for basic different disinfectants that have the same effect and are safe for the user using local cleaning suppliers or even brewers for hand sanitisers.

 

Finally be flexible. Government rules are necessarily regularly changing depending on the risk level from Coronavirus and the RSPCA has also been regularly updating its work protocols during the Coronavirus outbreak depending on Government advice and ADCH members should do likewise. For instance, the Government may issue new guidance on pet adoption in the coming week which could change how ADCH members operate and the need for PPE equipment.

 

By following this simple advice you will be protecting your staff, maximise animal welfare for animals in your care, protect the public and reduce the risk of transfer or infection from Coronavirus.

David Bowles
RSPCA

08/04/2020