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Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) In Forensics: Is It Safe?

         

Personal protective equipment is used in many places at risk like construction, manufacturing plants, and hospitals. The Department of Forensic Medicine is one of the area that require the compliance for personal protective equipment to protect employees from infection while performing autopsy. The image above shows some of the equipment used during autopsy.

All deaths under police investigation need to go through the process of autopsy. During the autopsy, the personnel involved should wear the prescribed equipment such as aprons, gloves, boots, masks and goggles. The equipment used is sufficient to avoid splashes of blood or other biological material during the autopsy is being performed.

However, caution is of utmost importance to avoid contact with sharp objects during the conduct of autopsy examination. This is because sharps can penetrate most of the equipment used in protection. To reduce the incidence of injury from sharp objects, personnel have been advised to wear double layer of gloves. The thickness of the gloves will reduce injury if case of any exposure to sharp objects.

In Department of Forensic Medicine with a forensic medical laboratory, specimen taken during the autopsy can be sent directly for further analysis. Personal protective equipment is also required during the procedure involved in processing and analysing the specimens concerned. PPE is used to prevent splashes of biological materials (specimens) or chemicals used during the analysis being carried out. Among the basic PPE that is usually needed is an apron, gloves, masks and goggles for personnel safety in the laboratory environment.

Whether in the laboratory or in the autopsy room, all personal protective equipment has its own function to prevent the wearer from injury. For example, the glasses should be worn when doing both of these procedures. This is because it can protect the eyes from splashes of blood and chemicals which are dangerous and can cause blindness. If it is worn, at least the risk of splashes can be reduced.

Department of Forensic Medicine conducts all routine cases, as well as cases of high-risk bodies for autopsy. An epidemic outbreak of H1N1 disease years ago caused high number of death in this country. Any bodies suspected to be infectious such as I the case of H1N1, autopsy will be conducted in the autopsy room with Biosafety level 2 and above. This is to reduce the risk for infectious disease for the personnel involved. PPE used is also slightly different from the usual PPE used in routine autopsy cases.

The illustration above is an example of the use of personal protective equipment in autopsy cases of high risk cases. Besides the personal protective equipment listed above, all personnel involved must also wear a respirator that has an effective ventilation system in order for air to be sucked out and eliminate all the germs and bacteria.

Below are examples of respiratory equipment used when handling high risk autopsy

          

Personal protective equipment for infectious diseases and high-risk cases is of utmost important. PPE need to undergo periodic inspections and maintenance so that they are always in good condition and ready for use whenever any epidemic or outbreak occur. Filter should also be checked frequently so that no filter is already expired and moldy. The disposable filter is used together with a breathing apparatus and must be disposed of after use. However, there are also filters that can be used for several times before disposal because of the high filtration system and effective function.

References

  1. Changes to Ebola Protection worn by U.S Hospital workers
  2. Jabatan Perubatan Forensik, Hospital Kuala Lumpur
Last Reviewed : 19 May 2015
Writer : Mohd Hilmi bin Saidin
Accreditor : Khoo Lay See