The urgent need for sustainable solutions to the PPE shortage

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Headlines and chyrons about the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment – or PPE, for short – for healthcare workers have become a permanent fixture of the news media. With face masks (at minimum) likely to be a mandated wardrobe staple for many months to come, “PPE” will soon transform from industry-specific jargon to a centerpiece of watercooler conversation – once the large swath of Americans working from home can safely return to the office.

The ability to protect workers while on the job remains the central concern as the private and public sector consider how to reopen the economy. In many industries, workplace safety has previously been a box to check for legal and liability purposes. Today, protecting the health of employees is the difference between keeping the doors open and the lights on, or shutting down business – possibly for good.

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines PPE as “equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses,” naming chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, and/or mechanical hazards as primary sources. The omnipresent threat of coronavirus will require conventional users of PPE at the workplace to think about how their gear can pull double-duty – protecting against biological threats as well – while other industries will be challenged to think about using PPE for the first time.

Relying on the current supply chain for single-use PPE is not the way to efficiently navigate out of the worst of this situation and into our new normal. Our first challenge is making reusable PPE widely available. The second is making it as protective as possible. Both can be accomplished by leveraging existing cutting-edge, yet practical and inexpensive infection prevention technologies, such as SilvaClean.