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.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic please also refer to the Scottish Government Extended Use of Facemask Guidance. The extended use of facemask guidance is an additional mitigation measure applied in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response.

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) e.g. 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

Filter Face Piece 3 (FFP3) Respirators

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) i.e. FFP3 and facial protection, must be considered when:

Please also see Appendix 17 for the extant list of Aerosol Generating Procedures which require the application of airborne precautions.  Appendix 17 also includes details of associated Post AGP Fallow times.

Where staff have concerns about potential COVID-19 exposure to themselves during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 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, as per DL 2022 10.

All tight fitting RPE i.e 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.

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.

National Priority Risk Categorisation for face fit testing with FFP3

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 i.e. 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 e.g. 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.

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 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.

Sessional use of PPE

Typically, sessional use of any PPE is not permitted within health and care settings at any time as it is associated with transmission of infection between service users within health and care settings.

During periods of increased respiratory activity in health and care settings, both as part of service user direct care delivery and extended use of facemasks guidance, sessional use of FRSMs and eye/face protection is permitted at this time.

This means that FRSMs and eye/face protection (where required) can be used moving between service users and for the period of time where a HCW is undertaking duties in an environment where there is exposure to respiratory pathogens.  A session ends when the healthcare worker leaves the clinical setting or exposure environment.  It is important to note the following;

The above measures in conjunction with safe donning and doffing of PPE ensure the safety of the HCW and the service user.

No other PPE is permitted to be worn sessionally moving between service users or care tasks.  This includes gloves, aprons and gowns.