Consequences of a Shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Consequences of a Shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Personal Protective Equipment is used by a variety of occupations, including dentists, machinists, firefighters, and woodworkers. The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has tested the manufacturing rate of PPE, much of which comes from China. A shortage of PPE is becoming a likely scenario from which to consider. Face masks, respirators, gowns, gloves, ventilators, eyewear, hand hygiene products, and tissues, all run the risk of becoming more difficult to acquire in a national emergency.[1] In China, people are resorting to using items such as scuba goggles to replace masks.[2] In the U.S., people are stockpiling basic necessities such as toilet paper.[3] Mass buying of such items has led to people hoarding, in essence taking away from others who would otherwise need it. It’s frankly akin to a doomsday zombie apocalypse scenario.

What are the consequences of this? Sellers have resorted to price-gouging, among all things, during a time of crisis.[4] In the state of California, even “expired N95 masks are being distributed from a state stockpile to ease hospital shortages.”[5] The Strategic National Stockpile has about “12 million N95 respirators and 30 surgical masks – a scant 1 percent of the estimated 3.5 billion masks the nation would need in a severe pandemic”.[6] Medical workers would be put severely at risk should hospitals and clinics run out of masks. In fact, many would consider not coming to work should this happen, leading to a shortage of personnel quarantining patients. Aerospace/airport workers run the risk of contracting the virus more easily than the general public due to the occupational exposure of “hundreds of travelers a day”.[7] In essence, failure to maintain, ship, or manufacture enough PPE would put American industries and workers severely at risk. Many would opt to leave work if they are not/could not be provided safety equipment, leading to a (global) recession.

What is the likelihood of people’s ability to file workers’ compensation claims based on an employer’s failure to provide PPE? Depending on the occupation, some would find it easier to do so than others, such as emergency responders, medical, and airport workers. Many airport workers have reported that they are not provided with the information necessary to protect themselves, neither gloves or masks.[8] This is critical to filing a workers’ comp case. If, however, PPE was adequately provided at all times on the job, it may be more difficult to file a claim, but nonetheless still possible.

[1] “Pandemic Planning.” Pandemic Planning: Stockpiling Medical Supplies | Halyard Health, Owens & Minor, www.halyardhealth.com/solutions/infection-prevention/pandemic-preparedness/pandemic-planning.aspx.

[2] Standaert, Michael. “Coronavirus: China Mask Producers Work Overtime to Meet Demand.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media Limited, 28 Jan. 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/28/china-mask-producers-work-overtime-to-meet-coronavirus-sparked-demand.

[3] Steinbuch, Yaron. “Why People Are Buying so Much Toilet Paper amid Coronavirus Outbreak.” New York Post, NYP Holdings, Inc., 4 Mar. 2020, nypost.com/2020/03/04/why-people-are-buying-so-much-toilet-paper-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/.

[4] Guynn, Jessica, and Kelly Tyko. “Gouge Much? Purell for $149, Face Masks for $20: Coronavirus Price Hikes Are Making Everyone Mad.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 4 Mar. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/03/03/coronavirus-hand-sanitizer-face-masks-price-gouging-amazon-walmart-ebay/4933920002/.

[5] Reinhard, Beth, and Emma Brown. “Face Masks in National Stockpile Have Not Been Substantially Replenished since 2009.” The Washington Post, WP Company LLC, 10 Mar. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/face-masks-in-national-stockpile-have-not-been-substantially-replenished-since-2009/2020/03/10/57e57316-60c9-11ea-8baf-519cedb6ccd9_story.html.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Overland, Martha Ann. “Airport Workers Fear They’re Unprotected From The Coronavirus.” NPR, National Public Radio, Inc., 1 Mar. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/03/01/810873413/airport-workers-fear-theyre-unprotected-from-the-coronavirus.

[8] Overland, Martha Ann. “Airport Workers Fear They’re Unprotected From The Coronavirus.” NPR, National Public Radio, Inc., 1 Mar. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/03/01/810873413/airport-workers-fear-theyre-unprotected-from-the-coronavirus.

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.