Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes a range of items designed to protect the person wearing them against threats to health or safety. Right now, they are in high demand everywhere as the coronavirus pandemic mutates and returns in different locations around the world. Here’s a handy checklist you can use when you’re arranging orders of PPE.
Generally, when people talk about PPE in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are referring to medical or healthcare PPE, including:
- face masks
- eye protection
- foot coverings
When you are discussing PPE with your suppliers or customers, make sure you establish exactly which PPE items you’re talking about.
2. Is the supplier reliable?
Make sure the supplier is trustworthy. Naturally, we recommend using the verified suppliers on GlobalSources.com. Otherwise, or simply to be extra sure, there are some steps you can take:
- Check the supplier against approved supplier lists for your target market if there is one – e.g. NIOSH in the USA, BSI VerifEye Directory in the UK).
- Assess the emails: “Be wary of companies with emails from generic addresses including @gmail, @yahoo, @qq, @sina, @126, or @163. Most legitimate companies will have email addresses that match their name,” says industrial sourcing expert Brittany Henneberry.
- Check out the website: Generally speaking, legitimate companies have websites. Look out for warning signs such as lack of SSL encryption, images and descriptions that don’t match their claims, and so on.
- Ask for information: Make sure you get detailed information about the product you are interest in, and ask how long they have been manufacturing this kind of PPE. Get contact details for former customers whom you can ask for an appraisal of the supplier.
- A dated photo or video of the product: Henneberry recommends this a s away of ensuring the supplier still has the product. “You can ensure it’s dated by having them write your company name in the shot as the photo is taken or the video is filmed.”
3. Does the product have the right certifications?
- N95 respirators
An authentic N95 respirator is marked with the text “NIOSH” or the NIOSH logo, the filter class (“N95”) and a “TC” approval number. The approval number of the respirator must be listed on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List (CEL) or the NIOSH Trusted-Source page, and it must have headbands instead of ear loops.
- KN95 respirators
Chinese Standard GB2626-2006 requires a KN95 respirator to have the following markings: the manufacturer’s name or logo; the code ‘GB2626-2006’; the manufacturer’s model numb; and the filtering mask class number ‘KN95’.
- Surgical masks
Most surgical masks use a three-layer design that includes an outer fluid-repelling layer, a middle layer serving as a barrier to germs, and an inner moisture-absorbing layer. According to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, masks without this three-layer design are not recommended as they cannot provide adequate protection.
Are you getting the right type?
- Latex gloves are comfortable and allow high dexterity. They are durable and biodegradable but have a relatively short shelf, are difficult to put on and take off, may cause allergic reactions.
- Vinyl gloves have a long shelf-life, are anti-static, and are easy to put on and take off. They can sag, offer low sensitivity and precision, and are less environmentally friendly.
- Nitrile gloves are comfortable, allow high dexterity and sensitivity, are puncture-resistant, have a long shelf-life and long wear time. They are also resistant to many common corrosive chemicals. They are biodegradable but relatively expensive.
When sourcing gowns such as surgical and isolation gowns, check you are sourcing for the correct risk level, which the American CDC defines as:
- Level 1: Minimal risk, to be used, for example, during basic care, standard isolation, cover gown for visitors, or in a standard medical unit
- Level 2: Low risk, to be used, for example, during blood draw, suturing, in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), or a pathology lab
- Level 3: Moderate risk, to be used, for example, during arterial blood draw, inserting an Intravenous (IV) line, in the Emergency Room, or for trauma cases
- Level 4: High risk, to be used, for example, during long, fluid intense procedures, surgery, when pathogen resistance is needed or infectious diseases are suspected (non-airborne)
- Do you need non-slip soles or water resistance for the shoe covers you are sourcing? If sourcing for professional healthcare settings you will typically require non-slip soles for safety. However, standard covers may be acceptable for more domestic uses such as for care homes. Healthcare workers in particular require fluid-resistant covers to protect their footwear and to mitigate the risks of contamination.
PPE in the EU
- In the European Union, an EU Declaration of Conformity must be provided with the product, be available to download from the manufacturer or supplier’s website, or be provided on request. Note: N95 and KN95 respirators cannot be used for inhalation control without further testing and CE certification, and then can only be used for protection against SARSCOV-2. ‘Fast-tracked’ CE-certified N95/KN95 respirators may not have the usual CE mark.
4. Is your order well defined?
All the usual provisos apply to PPE as to any product when you are making arrangements for your order. With the safety concerns around PPE, it’s even more important than usual to ensure you are getting exactly what you expect.
“When ordering regulated equipment that you have verified as authentic, you should ensure that the full specification of the items is indicated on your quote/invoice,” advises the official guidance for PPE sourcing from East Sussex County Council in the UK. “For example, if you are ordering gloves, make sure your invoice clearly states ‘EN 445 nitrile gloves size medium + [name of the brand you verified]’. This should prevent suppliers substituting items for products which may not be compliant to the PPE standards and regulations or are counterfeit.”