Use of Personal Protective Equipment Among Healthcare Workers During the First and the Second Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christine Cramer, Karoline Kærgaard Hansen, Martin Byskov Kinnerup, Esben Meulengracht Flachs, Jesper Medom Vestergaard, Karin Biering, Kent Nielsen, Anne Mette Würtz, Annett Dalbøge, Else Toft Würtz, Mona Kjærsgaard, Henrik Albert Kolstad, Vivi Schlünssen

7 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: To treat and properly care for COVID-19 patients it is vital to have healthy healthcare workers to ensure the continued function of the healthcare system and to prevent transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to patients, co-workers, and the community. Personal protective equipment (PPE) can prevent healthcare workers from being infected with and transmitting SARS-CoV-2. Experience and training are pivotal to ensure optimal protection. This study aims to examine the use and failure of PPE and compliance with PPE guidelines during the first and the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic among Danish healthcare workers.

METHODS: Healthcare workers from the Central Denmark Region and the Capital Region of Denmark were invited to participate April-June 2020 during the first wave and November 2020-April 2021 during the second wave. Day-by-day, participants reported work procedures, use and failure of PPE, and compliance with PPE guidelines. Register-based information on sex, age, department, and profession was available for all participants.

RESULTS: In total, 21 684 and 10 097 healthcare workers participated during the first and the second wave, respectively. During the first wave, 1.7% used filtering face piece-2 or -3 (FFP2 or FFP3) respirators and 8.2% used face masks [fluid resistant (type IIR) masks, masks with visor (typically type IIR), and other unspecified face masks] during physical contact with patients. During the second wave, the corresponding figures increased to 17.8% and 80.7%. During respiratory procedures, the use of FFP2 or FFP3 respirators increased from 5.6 to 24.3%, and the use of face masks from 14.7 to 77.8%. The no PPE use decreased from 21.3% during the first wave to 0.4% in the second wave, during respiratory procedures. Total PPE failures decreased from 0.7 to 0.4% from the first to second wave. The proportion not complying with PPE guidelines declined from 3.6 to 2.2% during physical contact with patients and from 6.5 to 4.6% during respiratory procedures. PPE failure and non-compliance varied by age, sex and type of department. Frequent reasons for non-compliance were forgetfulness and lack of time, and during the first but not during the second wave, limited availability of PPE.

CONCLUSION: We found a substantial increase in the use of PPE and a substantial decrease in PPE failures from the first to the second wave of COVID-19 in Denmark. However, there is still a need for continuous focus on compliance in use of PPE among healthcare workers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Work Exposures and Health
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)59-75
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2023


  • compliance
  • COVID-19
  • face masks
  • healthcare workers
  • personal protective equipment


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