IOM panels consider standards for PPE

Gowns, face shields vary in quality

Is your safety equipment safe enough? Two Institute of Medicine panels are considering whether personal protective equipment (PPE) should be required to meet certification standards.

The Committee on Personal Protective Equipment for Workplace Safety and Health is considering certification issues as well as guidance and training. The Committee on Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers During an Influenza Pandemic also is addressing wearability, training, certification, and the need for further research related to PPE.

Currently, respirators are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The Food and Drug Administration checks samples of medical gloves for water leaks and visible defects.

But other types of PPE, including goggles and face shields, do not need to meet federal quality standards. It's up to consumers to look for products that have been certified that they meet voluntary standards, such as those of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

"If the product is certified, it demonstrates that a product complies with a standard," says Reinaldo Figueiredo, MS, program director for the accreditation of product certification at ANSI in Washington, DC. "You have more confidence in the performance of the product."

For example, protective eyewear should perform well in splash tests and should meet minimum standards for impact resistance and flame resistance, says Patricia Gleason, president of the Safety Equipment Institute in McLean, VA, which certifies protective eyewear and protective clothing, among other items.

It's important for consumers to know that quality may vary in personal protective equipment, she says. "We've had manufacturers who wanted their product certified and we found that it did not pass testing. They had to go back and redesign," she says.

(Editor's note: The Institute of Medicine Committee on Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Wor-kers During an Influenza Pandemic planned to hold a scientific workshop on Feb. 22 in the lecture room of the National Academy of Sciences at 2100 C Street N.W., Washington, DC. More information on the committee's activities is available at www.iom.edu/CMS/3740/39644.aspx.)


AOHP, occ health gain recognition in alliance

JCAHO council gets EH perspective

Occupational health nursing now has a seat at the table when health care quality and pandemic preparedness are being discussed.

The Joint Commission invited the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) to join the Nursing Advisory Council. The action came swiftly after AOHP petitioned The Joint Commission in August, asking for the recognition.

AOHP members have noted that Joint Commission surveyors often overlook employee health, although a number of Joint Commission standards affect that area.

Membership on the Nursing Advisory Council will give a new voice to employee health, says Denise Knoblauch, RN, BSN, COHN-S/CM, executive president of AOHP and clinical case manager at the OSF SFMC Center for Occupational Health of Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL.