2.4 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

2.4.1  Surgical masks

A type IIR fluid resistant surgical mask should be worn when caring for a patient with a suspected/confirmed infectious agent spread by the droplet route.

Surgical masks worn by patients with suspected/confirmed infectious agents spread by the droplet or airborne routes, as a form of source control, should meet type II or IIR standards.

2.4.2  Eye/face protection

A face visor or goggles should be used in combination with a fluid resistant type IIR surgical mask when caring for symptomatic patients infected with droplet transmitted infectious agents.

A face visor or goggles should be used in combination with a fluid resistant FFP3 respirator when caring for symptomatic patients infected with an airborne transmitted infectious agent.

Eye/face protection should be worn

2.4.3  Aprons/Gowns

An apron should be worn when caring for patients known or suspected to be colonised/infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria including contact with the patient’s environment.

Plastic aprons should be used in health and social care settings for protection against contamination with blood and/or body fluids

A fluid repellent gown should be used if excessive splashing or spraying is anticipated.

A full body fluid repellent gown should be worn when conducting AGPs on patients known or suspected to be infected with a respiratory infectious agent.


Further information can be found in the Aprons/Gowns literature review.

2.4.4   Gloves

Gloves must:

Double gloving is only recommended during some Exposure Prone Procedures (EPPs), for example orthopaedic and gynaecological operations, or when attending major trauma incidents and when caring for a patient with a suspected or known High Consequence Infectious disease.  Double gloving is not necessary at any other time.


For appropriate glove use and selection see Appendix 5.

Further information can be found in the Gloves literature review.

2.4.5  RPE

PPE must still be used in accordance with SICPs when using Respiratory Protective Equipment. See Chapter 1.4 for PPE use for SICPs. 

Where it is not reasonably practicable to prevent exposure to a substance hazardous to health (as may be the case where healthcare workers are caring for patients with suspected or known airborne micro-organisms) the hazard must be adequately controlled by applying protection measures appropriate to the activity and consistent with the assessment of risk. If the hazard is unknown the clinical judgement and expertise of IPC/HP staff is crucial and the precautionary principle should apply.

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), for instance FFP3 and facial protection, must be considered when:

See Appendix 16 for the extant list of Aerosol Generating Procedures which require the application of airborne precautions and details of associated Post AGP Fallow times.

Filter Face Piece 3 (FFP3) Respirators

Where staff have concerns, they may choose to wear an FFP3 respirator rather than a fluid-resistant surgical mask (FRSM) when providing patient care, provided they are fit tested. This is a personal PPE risk assessment.

All tight fitting RPE (for instance FFP3) respirators must be:


Poster on compatibility of facial hair and FFP3 respirators can be used when fit testing and fit checking.


Further information regarding fitting and fit checking of respirators can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

National Priority Risk Categorisation for face fit testing with FFP3

The following risk categorisation is the minimum requirement for staff groups that require FFP3 fit testing. NHS boards can add to this for example where high-risk units are present. This categorisation is inclusive of out of hours services.

Level 1 – Preparedness for business as usual

Staff in clinical areas most likely to provide care to patients who present at healthcare facilities with an infectious pathogen spread by the airborne route; and/or undertake aerosol generating procedures. These are A&E, ICU, paediatrics, respiratory, infectious diseases, anaesthesia, theatres, Chest physiotherapists, Special Operations Response Team (Ambulance), A&E Ambulance Staff, Bronchoscopy Staff, Resuscitation teams, mortuary staff.

Level 2 – Preparedness in the event of emerging threat

Staff in clinical setting likely to provide care to patients admitted to hospital in the event of an emerging threat, for example Medical receiving, Surgical, Midwifery and Speciality wards, all other ambulance transport staff. 


In the event of an ‘Epidemic/Pandemic’ Local Board Assessment as per their preparedness plans will apply.

The decision to wear an FFP3 respirator/hood should be based on clinical risk assessment, for example task being undertaken, the presenting symptoms, the infectious state of the patient, risk of acquisition and the availability of treatment.


For a list of organisms spread wholly or partly by the airborne (aerosol) or droplet routes see Appendix 11.

Further information can be found in the aerosol generating procedures literature review.

Powered respirator hoods

Powered respirator hoods are an alternative to FFP3 respirators for example when fit testing cannot be achieved.

Powered hoods must be:

FFP3 respirator or powered respirator hood

Work is currently underway by the UK Re-useable Decontamination Group examining the suitability of respirators for decontamination. This literature review will be updated to incorporate recommendations from this group when available. In the interim, ARHAI Scotland are unable to provide assurances on the efficacy of respirator decontamination methods and the use of re-useable respirators is not recommended.

Further information can be found in the Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) literature review and the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Infectious Diseases of High Consequence (IDHC) literature review.

Frameworks to support the assessing and recording of staff competency in PPE for HCID are available in the resources section of the NIPCM.