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The Error-Prone Operational Steps and Key Sites of Self-Contamination During Donning and Doffing of Personal Protective Equipment by Health Care Workers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 May 2021

Hui-Lan Zhang
Department of Infectious Diseases, Southwest Hospital, Army Medical University (Third Military Medical University), Chongqing, China
Sha Yang
Department of Infectious Diseases, Southwest Hospital, Army Medical University (Third Military Medical University), Chongqing, China
Hong-Xia Luo
Department of Infectious Diseases, Southwest Hospital, Army Medical University (Third Military Medical University), Chongqing, China
Jian-Ping You*
Department of Infectious Diseases, Southwest Hospital, Army Medical University (Third Military Medical University), Chongqing, China
Corresponding Author: Jian-Ping You, Email:



This study aims to identify error-prone operational steps and key sites of self-contamination during donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE).


A total of 56 health care workers, including 37 nurses and 19 physicians, were recruited to don and doff the PPE recommended by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Operational errors and sites of self-contamination were recorded using UV-fluorescent labeling and video surveillance.


Three main errors during donning were identified: choosing a loose-fitting coverall that was difficult to handle; ignoring to inspect the seal of N95 respirator or gloves; and forgetting to pull up the zipper completely. Four main errors during doffing were identified: removing the N95 respirator in a wrong way; touching the scrubs with contaminated hands and elbows; touching contaminated external surfaces of the goggles; and performing insufficient hand hygiene. Key sites that were easily contaminated during the doffing of PPE included left hand and wrist, left lower leg, chest, and left abdomen.


Identifying the steps prone to errors and key sites of self-contamination in the process of PPE donning and doffing can facilitate the training of PPE use and provide detailed evidence for optimizing standardized protocols to reduce contamination.

Original Research
© Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2021

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