PPE – what care workers should wear in care home & home care settings

Published: Monday 26th July 2021

This care worker PPE guidance covers support for people using live-in care, home care, extra care housing and care homes. Our procurement and head office teams continue to source and supply sufficient PPE for our care workers.

Since the easing of restrictions on 19 July 2021, we have taken the precautionary approach of continuing to instruct care and support staff to use PPE as they have been, including face masks being worn at all times when providing care and support and aprons and gloves when providing personal, direct care within 2 metres.

The information below provides an overview of what we expect of our workforce in different environments.  Please talk to your line manager if you have any specific questions or concerns regarding the use of PPE.

Importance of hand and respiratory hygiene

PPE is only truly effective where it is combined with:

  • Hand hygiene (cleaning your hands regularly and appropriately) and respiratory hygiene
  • Avoiding touching the face with your hands
  • Following standard infection prevention and control precautions

Care workers wearing PPE face masks

What PPE should be worn by home care workers (including extra care and supported living)?

When providing personal care (whether the person has symptoms or not), or being within two metres of anyone in the household who is coughing:

  • Single use disposable gloves
  • Single use disposable apron
  • Type IIR fluid resistant surgical mask
  • Eye protection (based on risk assessment)

When a home care visit does not require the worker to touch the client, but when they may need to be within two metres of the client (e.g. preparing medicines, preparing meals, domestic cleaning)

  • Type II surgical mask

Vinyl gloves provide sufficient protection for most care duties. However, Nitrile gloves can be provided based on risk factors in your care duties such as whether there is a risk of gloves being required for long periods. If gloves tear during any care duties, effective hand hygiene must be performed before changing into new gloves.

Use of face masks

Because face masks are intended for the protection of the care worker, the same mask may be worn between different home care visits, if it is safe to do so whilst travelling (eg. on foot or by car or by public transport), so long as the mask does not need to be taken off, or lowered from the face.

Face masks should be discarded and replaced and not be subject to continued use in any of the following circumstances:

  • If damaged
  • If soiled (e.g. with secretions or body fluids)
  • If damp
  • If uncomfortable or causing skin irritation
  • If difficult to breathe through

Face masks must also be worn:

  • When working with clients and their household members
  • When in your work premises (office) including communal areas such as kitchens
  • In your office/work space if you come into contact with care workers who deliver care even if you do not deliver care yourself

Eye protection

Eye protection (generally face shields) is needed based on risk assessment of the individual service user and any symptoms. They usually used where there is a risk of droplets or secretions from the client’s mouth, nose, lungs or from body fluids reaching the eyes (e.g. caring for someone who is repeatedly coughing, sneezing or who may be vomiting).

It can also be used continuously while providing care, unless it needs to be removed from the face (e.g. to take a break from duties, or when driving).

Eye protection should be properly cleaned/sanitised after each use and not be subject to continued use in any of the following circumstances:

  • If damaged
  • If soiled (e.g. with secretions, body fluids)
  • If uncomfortable or causing skin irritation

Risk assessments

A risk assessment is required to assess the likelihood of encountering a person with Covid, how the infection may be transmitted, and when to use PPE. A risk assessment is still required when the person and staff member have been fully vaccinated as Covid-19 is still transmissible (although symptoms are not as severe after both doses of the vaccine).

You must inform your manager to any changes in the condition of people you visit which will help determine when. and for which clients or duties you need to wear items such as eye protection or fluid repellent surgical masks.

You might be instructed to wear eye protection and a fluid repellent mask for all the visits you will make that day. This would be appropriate when you are going to be providing direct care for clients who are known to be coughing, or who might be vomiting (to prevent droplets or secretions from the client reaching your eye).

What PPE should be worn by live-in care workers?

If you are living with your client on an ongoing basis, and this is your only client, then you are considered part of the same household.

You should follow government guidance (e.g. on household isolation in the event that any person in the household develops symptoms of COVID-19) and use PPE as per standard infection and prevention control guidance.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance would be relevant if you are a care worker living in the household of your only client, but you also visit other clients as well for domiciliary care.

What PPE should be worn by care home workers?

Care home staff with PPE visors

In our care homes, with or without nursing:

  • For direct care of all residents – gloves, apron and fluid resistant surgical mask. Eye protection is also required where there is risk of droplets/splashing or any aerosol generating procedure (AGP)
  • For non-direct contact (no touching) whatever your role (this applies to all staff including cleaners, receptionists & kitchen staff) – at a distance of 2 metres or more away from residents –surgical masks are to be worn at all times and gloves and aprons as standard precautions depending on the task at hand

Face masks can be worn continuously for a period of duty until the employee takes a break or if the face mask becomes damaged, damp or uncomfortable where it can be changed.

Vinyl gloves provide sufficient protection for most care duties but, Nitrile gloves can be provided based on risk factors in your care duties, such as whether there is a risk of gloves being required for long periods. If gloves tear during any care duties, effective hand hygiene must be performed before changing into new gloves.

Risk assessment is required to assess the likelihood of encountering a person with COVID-19, how the infection may be transmitted and when to use PPE.

A visual guide to safe PPE for carers

See more information on infection prevention and control of COVID-19.

How should I put on and take off PPE?

PPE should be put on and removed in an order that minimises the potential for self-contamination.

The order for PPE removal is:

  • Gloves
  • Hand hygiene
  • Apron
  • Eye protection
  • Hand hygiene
  • Surgical face mask
  • Hand hygiene

Putting on and removing PPE

This Public Health England video explains the standard COVID-19 PPE that is safe and appropriate for use in a range of health and social care settings.

COVID-19 Putting on and taking off PPE – a guide for care homes

Training provided to Agincare care workers

Agincare care workers are given comprehensive social care training from our training partner Training Now that includes correct usage of PPE.

View all our latest news, guidance and FAQs on coronavirus.

Find out more about care careers with Agincare.

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