Q. When it’s safe for a therapist to return to full practice, should they be wearing PPE?
As government guidelines regarding what type of PPE is considered appropriate may vary from country to country, it is strongly advise that therapists look at sector-specific government guidelines, where available.
For England, the government’s Guidance for keeping workers and clients safe in close contact services, which was last updated on 11 September, now states that practitioners can wear a clear visor or goggles (polycarbonate safety spectacles or equivalent), in addition to a Type II face mask, to keep their clients safe:
"Goggles may be used as an alternative to a clear visor, when worn with a Type II face mask. Goggles provide eye protection to the wearer. To be worn in place of a clear visor, goggles should be polycarbonate safety spectacles or equivalent. Reusable eye protection should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
"A Type II face mask should be worn with the visor/goggles. Type II face masks are not PPE but will reduce potential transmission to others when used correctly." (See Section 6.1)
If wearing a face visor, please note that both disposable and re-usable visors are available. A re-usable visor must be cleaned and disinfected between each client using normal cleaning products.
Type II face masks are medical face masks and available in two types: splash resistant (Type IIR, typically used in clinical settings) and non-splash resistant (Type II).
To mitigate the risk of infection, it also states: "Unless crucial for the treatment, avoid skin to skin contact and use gloves where possible.” This guidance is open to interpretation and uses the phrases “unless crucial” and “where possible”. If a practitioner believes it is not possible to perform a particular treatment with gloves on, or that skin to skin contact is crucial for that treatment, then it is important that they highlight this within their risk assessment, along with what other measures they have put in place to mitigate the risk of cross-infection. For those who are wearing gloves, please be aware that latex or rubber gloves can degrade when working with oil (look for nitrile-based gloves instead, or others that will not degrade if using oil).
Q: Do clients need to wear a mask to their session?
In England, the government’s Guidance for keeping workers and clients safe in close contact services states that from 8 August, face coverings are mandatory in nail, beauty and hair salons, as well as for massage services, and “should not be removed unless essential for a particular treatment – for example, for a treatment on the face area covered by the mask” (please note that treatments on or in front of the face can resume in England from 15 August).
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have advised that clients will also need to wear a face covering within a private treatment context, where complementary, beauty and sports treatments are given on a one-to-one basis, even if other people are not present.
If clients are unable to wear a face covering, eg. for health reasons or because it restricts their breathing when lying face down, this must be covered in the risk assessment and other mitigations put in place to reduce cross-infection. For guidance on face coverings, including a list of who is exempt from wearing a face covering in England, please click here.
However, it is always important to take into account the client’s wishes, and to allow them the option to wear a face mask or covering if that would make them feel more comfortable.
If you have any concerns or questions please comment below and we would be happy to answer.