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Personal Protective Equipment

Health and SafetyThe Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 [1] require employers to:

  • assess whether personal protective equipment (PPE) is required by employees;
  • provide PPE that is fit for purpose;
  • maintain and store PPE properly;
  • ensure employees know how to use PPE correctly.

Health and Safety Executive guidance on the implementation of the Regulations is provided in A Short Guide to the Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 [2].

The use of PPE in the dental practice is essential to reduce the risk of contact with biological or chemical hazards that might be present. PPE should also be provided for patients where required. It is a requirement of practice inspection that a dental practice has Protective Personal Equipment policy (see Personal Protective Equipment Policy Mar 2013 template (Word) either as a separate policy or as part of the practice’s Infection Control policy.

PPE items, and their uses, in dental practice include:

  • Clinical gloves for all clinical procedures, discarded after each patient or if perforation occurs.
  • Household gloves, plastic disposable aprons and eye protection during the decontamination of instruments.
  • Eye protection (with side protection) during treatment and decontamination procedures.
  • Eye protection and bibs for patients during their treatment.
  • Masks to provide protection from aerosols.
  • Surgery clothing confined for use within the practice only, and laundered at high temperatures.

Public Health Scotland (previously Health Protection Scotland) [3] provides further advice on PPE within the National Infection Prevention and  Control Manual [4] which includes guidance on putting on and removing PPE and choice of gloves.

NB: Public Health Scotland (previously Health Protection Scotland) [3] recommends the use of powder-free, low protein latex or nitrile gloves in preference to powdered latex gloves to reduce the risks associated with aerosolisation and an increased risk of latex allergies (see Latex Allergies).

As part of your health and safety risk assessments (see Five Steps to a Health and Safety Risk Assessment), identify when PPE is required and the type of PPE required for each procedure. These assessments must include consideration of risks to patients and, in this regard, should address the need for suitable and sufficient PPE to be provided (eye protection etc.) where appropriate.

Ensure suitable PPE is available to minimise the risks identified in your risk assessment, and train staff in the correct use of PPE and their obligations to wear this equipment.

Maintain and store PPE items in a way that ensures they remain fit for purpose.

Include the requirement for staff to wear PPE within staff contracts and agreements and in your health and safety policy.

Refer to the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme guidance Cleaning of Dental Instruments [5] for more details about PPE that is used when cleaning instruments.

Sources of Information

  1. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 2002 (www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/1144/contents/made)
  2.  A Brief Guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Health and Safety Executive (2005) (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg174. (PDF))
  3. Public Health Scotland (previously Health Protection Scotland)
  4. National Infection Prevention and Control Manual. Health Protection Scotland (2016) (www.nipcm.hps.scot.nhs.uk)
  5. Cleaning of Dental Instruments: Dental Clinical Guidance. [Part 1 of Decontamination into Practice.] Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (2007)  (www.sdcep.org.uk/published-guidance/decontamination)