Assessing the usability of personal protective equipment for sanitation workers in tropical countries

COVID-19, Sanitation
A sanitation worker putting on gloves to protect themselves while servicing sewers in Delhi, India. 2019
Image: WaterAid/ CS Sharada Prasad

In many countries, sanitation workers operate in hazardous environments, with little to no personal protective equipment (PPE), making them vulnerable to injury, illness and even death.

But even when workers have access to PPE, they may not use it consistently. A key driver of this is the fact that the PPE may not be adequate for hot and humid contexts.

This working paper explores this issues and is based on a review of literature and key informant interviews with nine experts.

The research confirmed that the PPE accessed by sanitation workers has ‘uncomfortable’ designs and poor quality materials.

PPE should be designed in a way that minimises discomfort, while allowing unrestricted movement and the ability to perform tasks easily. Materials need to be impermeable, breathable, withstand extreme working environments and allow a high level of dexterity.