FRC Safety During COVID-19: Why Sharing FRC and PPE is Risky – Part 2

As stated in our previous post, Why Sharing FRC and PPE is Risky, COVID-19 is spread by primarily by respiratory droplets; when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the droplets are transmitted to hard surfaces and fabrics, where they can remain viable for days. For this reason, it is important TO NOT share FRC or PPE, handle anyone else’s used FRC or PPE, or let anyone else handle your laundered FRC or clean PPE. Taking that one step further in this post, the best way to avoid the transmission of COVID-19 – or any illness – through FRC and PPE is to have your own supply of FRC and PPE and, of course, to properly clean that supply.

Most companies understand the importance of offering employees their own FRC (as opposed to renting or sharing) and many workers have their own supply of FRC in their closet today. But there are certain PPE items – arc flash suits, hard hats, face shields, gloves, etc. – that are used infrequently or situationally, and are often shared amongst workers. Even under normal circumstances, sharing such PPE is not ideal. But during COVID-19, it’s crucial to not share PPE for all the reasons previously stated.

Additionally, properly disinfecting PPE between different wearers in the field is extremely challenging. PPE items are made of fabric, plastic, rubber, metal, leather, and/or other materials. Arc flash suits must be laundered in order to be properly disinfected – therefore, it’s simply not possible to clean between workers in the field. Face shields, gloves, hard hats, and other PPE are made of all sorts of materials and naturally require different cleaning and disinfecting methods – and what is appropriate for one item may actually damage another. It would be especially difficult to A) keep track of the different disinfecting methods between the items, B) have all of the components necessary to properly disinfect on hand (particularly in the field) and C) do so on a regular basis.

Plus, to effectively sanitize some PPE, such as a hood, you may need to take it apart. First of all, some items weren’t necessarily designed to be disassembled often, much less on a daily basis. Second, disassembling and reassembling equipment can be complicated – it could damage the PPE, causing it to be less effective in the event of an arc-flash incident. Not to mention, you could encounter expensive replacement costs in the event something breaks, which is likely due to the fact that it’s not common practice.

Furthermore, as we’ve seen time and time again throughout the COVID-19 crisis, certain items – toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes, not to mention PPE like masks – have been depleted by consumers. Because our top priority is worker safety, we feel it’s our responsibility to issue an alert that PPE and PPE kits could be next. Why are we concerned?

  • There are limited kit PPE manufacturers – only a handful, and even fewer manufacture in the US, compared to dozens of FRC manufacturers in the US.
  • Those kit manufacturers hold far less inventory of kits – as in hundreds, vs hundreds of thousands of FRC shirts/pants
  • PPE kit manufacturing is time consuming – 5-6 weeks (minimum) from start to finish, compared to 1-2 weeks for FRC.

If there is a run on PPE items and kits, as we anticipate, these items will be depleted quickly and take an extended period of time to replenish. In effort to combat this, Tyndale advises that if you expect to need kits this year, or if you are reducing sharing of PPE, it may be wise to act now to purchase your own supply or PPE items (using your company-funded allowance or allotment, if you are in a Tyndale-managed program) while we and our strategic partners still have inventory.

Workers with their own supply of PPE items – similar to FRC – eliminates the need to disinfect items between users in the field or at home, reduces the risk of damaging or replacing expensive PPE items, and will help limit the spread of COVID-19 amongst workers in vital industries who are currently maintaining our country’s critical energy infrastructure as we face this unprecedented challenge of overcoming COVID-19.

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