As many frontline workers have been wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and working for hours on end to battle COVID-19, studies have indicated that donning this layer of protection can have side-effects on the human body. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper published earlier this year found that extensive use of PPE can cause “headache, increased pressure inside the skull, increased breathing frequency, and reduced tolerance to lighter workloads.”
As businesses resume some form of normalcy and many employees having no choice but to return to work, some companies have asked their staff to wear PPE. To understand what it’s like working long shifts wearing an extra layer of equipment on your body, Sujay Kulkarni, a video producer based in Mumbai, spoke with Re:Set about his experience during a recent ad shoot.
It was quite difficult to adjust on the first day. I was wearing my normal shoot clothes, usually a shirt or a t-shirt with jeans, and after wearing the full kit, it got really hot inside, almost unbearable. Usually shoots are done in 12-hour shifts, but we were efficient and wrapped up in 10-11 hours on each of the six days. But I came in shorts after that first experience.
The kit itself doesn’t weigh much. It comprises a jumpsuit, shoe covers, hair cap, a mask, face shield and glasses so even your eyes are airtight. But you have to make an effort in doing daily tasks. It’s like moving or trying to hold a cup wearing a full cricket kit. You really need to adjust to basic movements like lifting your hand for equipment because it feels different.
If you want to pee, for example, you zip down, which ends at your belly button, so you have to maneuver a bit and it can get uncomfortable.
Other basic tasks like eating and hydrating too are difficult because you have to remove your gloves. So we tried to eat and drink as quickly as possible. You just can’t keep removing and putting the whole thing back on again and again.
The type of difficulty on the set is different for everyone. The air conditioning, for example, has to be on full blast throughout the day. For those of us wearing PPE, we were still sweating, but the artist who has to be in front of the camera, doesn’t wear any PPE, so it is really freezing.
The whole experience just takes time to get used to and at the end of the day we know it’s for everyone’s safety.