Monday, June 15, 2020

Carelessly discarded PPE at airport trigger safety alarm

Kolkata: A pile of used personal protective equipment (PPE) dumped carelessly on the arrival level of Kolkata airport has left a section of passengers, some of them from the medical fraternity, horrified. Apart from being an eyesore, they flagged more serious concerns about the possibility of the virus spreading in the terminal from contaminated body suits, face-shields and gloves discarded callously by arriving passengers. Used PPE are considered bio-hazard waste.
According to sources, early signs of the problem had surfaced when flights resumed at Kolkata airport on May 28. Passengers who urgently need to fly down to Kolkata, but were wary of contracting the disease during the journey choose to fly wearing PPE. Once the journey is over, they try to remove it quickly not only out of concern that droplets from a fellow passenger may have got on the suit, but also because it is extremely uncomfortable to wear the PPE. Made of synthetic material, it does not allow air to penetrate, leaving the person wearing it hot and sweaty.
“Since last week, the volume of PPE discards shot up with several dozen middle-seat passengers in each arriving flight taking it off as soon as they exited the aerobridge. Though large bins were placed in the arrival hall next to the conveyor belts in baggage claim area, passengers began dumping them near a regular waste bin kept at the aerobridge arrival level,” an airport official pointed out.

An arriving passenger said it was shocking to see used PPE littered all around. “There should be areas demarcated with proper signage where flyers alighting from a plane can take off the PPE and put them in a bin. Just placing a few bins here and there isn’t enough. With at least some among us expected to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, it is plain hazardous to allow PPE litter,” he said.

An airline official said that while Airports Authority of India had framed an SOP for disposal of PPE worn by the crew, it was not amended to include passengers when it became mandatory for airlines to provide PPE to middle-seat passengers. “Airports shall set up de-gowning area at appropriate locations for staffers, airline crew and medical personnel to divest and dispose PPE with a protocol for safe disposal of PPE as bio-hazard waste,” the SOP states.
15/06/20 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India
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