The work health and safety regulator advises PPE should be worn by:
- people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 as advised by their doctor or Queensland Health.
- people with close contact with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 (e.g. healthcare workers). PPE guidance for specific industries is available at www.health.gov.au.
The current shortage of disposable particulate respirators in Australia due to an increase in demand from health care workers and from the public, creates an issue for workplaces which require disposable respirators to protect workers from exposure to hazardous dusts generated from various work processes.
If you cannot get stocks from your regular suppliers, QLD WorkSafe suggests:
- If you normally use P2 disposable respirators to protect against mechanically generated particulates (for example, dust from power tools or bonded asbestos removal), a P1 disposable respirator may be an alternative option. P1 disposable respirators are suitable for mechanically generated particulates while P2 disposable respirators are suitable for both mechanically and thermally generated particulates (e.g. particulates produced by hot processes such as soldering and welding). Use this table to select an appropriate respirator.
If you are able to source respirators, you should ensure you are getting the maximum use out them.
WorkSafe recommends you do this by:
- Rescheduling work for when disposable respirators are available
- Restrict access to respirators to staff who need to use them, i.e. whose work puts them at risk of exposure to a hazardous dust.
- Where respirators are being reused following a rest break, ensure facilities are available to support the following steps:
- Before removing the respirator—wash hands,
- Remove respirator and wash face,
- Ensure a user fit check is completed each time disposable RPE is re fitted, and
- Dispose of RPE if damaged, dust is present inside the RPE or it no longer fits tightly and conforms to the wearers face.
- Use suitable alternatives to disposable respirators
- Use higher order risk controls such as enclosures and LEV that eliminate exposure to airborne contaminants.
- Consider administrative controls such as reducing the level and duration of exposure of employees involved in dust generation through work organisation (periodic rotation of employees both through and in areas with potentially significant dust exposures) and limits on overtime.
- Use other types of respirators which provide the same or greater level of protection such as reusable respirators and powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR). Supply of these respirators has not currently been severely impacted, but this may change.
- Reusable respirators with replaceable particulate filters can be used as an alternative to disposable respirators. Filters can be used repeatedly so long as both parts are regularly cleaned and stored in a clean container between usage. The cost for this type of respirator is very competitive when compared to ongoing replacement costs of disposable respirators.
- Reusable PAPR can be used as an alternative to disposable respirators. PAPR units have a wide variety of head-tops and replaceable particulate filters.