Before the COVID-19 pandemic stunned the world, everyday people had a loose notion about who was an “essential worker.” If you conducted an impromptu person on the street poll, the top responses would likely have been first responders, doctors, nurses, and government agencies.

Since the coronavirus upended civilization, we’re fast discovering the full range of other essential occupations we all rely on. These seemingly ordinary jobs are keeping the rest of us afloat until the coronavirus has been contained. Each and every one of these modern-day heroes deserve the safest personal protective equipment (PPE) and protective clothing available. These are occupations in which friends and neighbors risk contracting COVID-19 for the good of the community, and protective clothing and strategies are necessary to keep them safe.

Essential Healthcare Workers Need Protective Clothing

The definition of essential healthcare workers has taken on seemingly new meaning during the coronavirus outbreak. While first responders and iconic hospital personnel such as doctors and nurses are at heightened risk, there are a myriad of others who are necessary as well. According to state and federal guidelines, these other lesser-known essential occupations.

  • Dentists
  • Pharmacists
  • Social Workers
  • Chiropractors
  • Equipment Technicians
  • Admin Personnel
  • Food Service
  • Housekeeping
  • Mental Health Professionals
  • Retail Outlets Specializing in Medical Supplies & Equipment

That appears to be a far more expansive list than many would have anticipated. The important question is, how do these selfless individuals remain safe from COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long-standing guidelines in place that speak to healthcare worker safeguard. In the “Guidance for the Selection and Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Healthcare,” the CDC sites the following types of protective clothing for these workers.

  • Gloves
  • Suits, Gowns & Aprons
  • Masks & Respirators
  • Goggles
  • Face Shields

The looming questions during a full-scale pandemic such as COVID-19 include the following. Do organizations have a stockpile to last months if necessary? Does a healthcare organization have a sustainable supply of essential protective clothing for frontlines and support healthcare professionals that include disposable, three-layer Soft Scrubs, gloves, and surgical masks, among others?

Those and other questions may be exacerbated by the fact that community wellbeing during the protracted coronavirus outbreak requires wide-reaching industries to remain up and running.

PPE Needed for Essential Food & Agriculture Workers

Until the COVID-19 crisis prompted Stay at Home and Shelter in Place mandates, the notion that restaurants and coffee shops would be forced to shutter was inconceivable. But the highly transmittable nature of the coronavirus requires minimal human interaction and reduced gathering spaces. Food and agriculture resources were once thought of only as part of the cultural fabric. Now we recognize it as part of a community’s lifeblood. The people who maintain the farm-to-table supply chain integrity rank among the most vital. These include occupations such as the following.

  • Farmers, Ranchers & Harvest Workers
  • Veterinarians & Pharmaceutical Makers
  • Seed & Feed Manufacturers & Distributors
  • Food Processing & Packaging Employees
  • Butchers & Slaughterhouse Workers
  • Warehouse Workers & Logistics Professionals
  • Truck Drivers
  • Supermarket Stock Clerks & Cashiers
  • The Person Who Sanitizes Your Shopping Cart

When we begin to see the massive supply chain that it takes to put food on the table during the COVID-19 crisis, one begins to understand the incredible volume of protective clothing needed in the supply chain and stockrooms. Not only do far more organizations need PPE than ever before, but these items must deftly fit all body types to ensure effectiveness. The CDC tasks industry leaders with three selection PPE guidelines.

  1. Determine the anticipated exposure, such as touch, splashes, or sprays.
  2. Consider the “durability and appropriateness of the PPE for the task.”
  3. Ensure the PPE fits each individual appropriately.

One of the strategies used by protective clothing operations such as International Enviroguard is to design comfortable fitting products that can be deftly accessorized. By accounting for seamless fits and accessories, heightened safety from COVID-19 is achieved. International Enviroguard produces ViroGaurd® specifically designed to protect against infectious diseases such as COVID-19. It can be customized for medical professionals or supermarket stock workers whose jobs include touching objects and surfaces that could harbor the coronavirus.

Essential Infrastructure Workers

The disruption caused by the coronavirus spread has also highlighted that wide-ranging infrastructure occupations are vital. At first blush, few might consider infrastructure occupations as essential to maintaining critical services and combating COVID-19. That holds true until one stops to consider the ramifications of the following workers sheltering in place rather than serving community needs.

  • Electrical & Utility Workers
  • Power Plant Personnel
  • Plant Maintenance Employees
  • Third-Party Service Providers
  • Natural Gas & Petroleum Industry
  • Gas Station Attendants
  • Mining & Timber Operations
  • Automotive Repair
  • Telecommunications Organizations
  • Information Technology Experts

Duties associated with these and other infrastructure occupations range substantially. Decision-makers in charge of ordering protective clothing may want to consider hard surface contact, working inside social distancing standards, and potential airborne contagions. After examining these factors, it will be apparent which gowns, full-body protective clothing, and accessories such as gloves and masks to select for essential infrastructure personnel.  

Follow CDC Protective Clothing Don & Doff Procedures

While health and safety support operations such as International Enviroguard are working diligently to keep the PPE supply lines flush, top-tier protocols must be followed. The following CDC “Don” and “Doff” recommendations are important defenses against contracting the coronavirus.

How To Don PPE

  • Gather all PPE to don
  • Check that gown or protective clothing is an appropriate fit
  • Perform hand sanitization
  • Put on protective clothing and properly secure it
  • Place mask or respirator on securely
  • Repeat hand sanitization before donning gloves

How To Doff Protective Clothing

  • Remove gloves without contaminating one or both hands
  • Perform hand sanitization
  • Remove gown, splash suit, and other PPE
  • Remove mask or respirator
  • Repeat hand sanitization

The COVID-19 pandemic has been both devastating to our communities and instructional. The spread has identified the people among us that are essential to our health and wellbeing. It has also demonstrated that proactive measures must be taken moving forward to maintain stockpiles of protective clothing for all essential and non-essential workers.

International Enviroguard continues to meet demand as quickly as possible and urges industry decision-makers to store and maintain PPE in an effort to remain vigilant and prepared after this contagion has been defeated.