Logo StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada Gearing up to restart: Businesses’ need for personal protective equipment

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

by Steve Martin

Text begins

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), resulting in persistent global uncertainty about supplies and inventories of PPE since the beginning of the pandemic. Availability of these items is particularly important for Canadian businesses to safely reopen and operate, as provinces and territories continue to relax physical distancing measures and economic activity resumes. This study examines businesses’ demand for PPE, and concerns about lack of supply, using new data for July 2020 from the Personal Protective Equipment Survey.

Two thirds of businesses need PPE to safely operate

A little over two thirds (69.1%) of businesses operating in the provinces report that they need, or expect to need, PPE to operate in accordance with COVID-related public health guidance as of July.Note This is a reduction of over ten percentage points from May, when 80.5% of businesses needed or expected to need PPE (Statistics Canada, 2020b), suggesting that fewer businesses than anticipated needed PPE to adapt as physical distancing measures were further relaxed and employment increased in June and July (Statistics Canada, 2020a; 2020f).

Demand for PPE varies across sectors of the economy, with at least four out of five businesses in accommodation and food services, private health care and social assistance, retail trade, and construction requiring PPE, compared to less than half of businesses in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and professional, scientific and technical services.Note Accommodation and food services, health care, and retail trade were identified as among the top sectors in need of PPE in May (Statistics Canada, 2020b), with businesses in these sectors continuing to be among the most likely to require PPE. The construction sector has seen large increases in employment as construction projects resume, likely fueling the sector’s demand for PPE. The most recent data for investment in building construction show an increase of 60.1% in May, coupled with a record-setting increase in monthly real GDP (Statistics Canada, 2020a; 2020c; 2020e; 2020f).Note Demand for PPE varies across the country as well, although much less than by sector, with businesses in Ontario the most likely to require PPE (73.9%).Note

There are a variety of different types of PPE that businesses need to safely operate. Of the businesses that need PPE, two thirds (67.3%) need at least four of the twelve types of PPE covered by the Personal Protective Equipment Survey (chart 1).Note Items related to cleaning surfaces and hands are the most likely types of PPE to be needed, as businesses implement enhanced cleaning protocols and increase access to hand sanitizer for employees (Statistics Canada, 2020a; 2020b). Businesses are most likely to need hand sanitizer (91.8%), disinfectant (76.5%), disinfectant wipes (67.5%), and surgical masks (59.5%).Note As with overall demand for PPE, businesses in different sectors of the economy demand different varieties of PPE, ranging from 93.7% of businesses in private health care and social assistance needing at least four different types of PPE, to 36.6% of businesses in construction, with little variability across the country.

Chart 1 Businesses that need personal protective equipment (PPE) need many types of PPE

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Region (appearing as row headers), Number of different PPE products needed (appearing as column headers).
Region Number of different PPE products needed
3 or less 4 to 6 7 or more
Atlantic 28.9 50.4 20.6
Quebec 33.5 47.8 18.7
Ontario 37.0 46.7 16.3
Prairies 30.5 48.3 21.2
British Columbia 24.4 47.8 27.8

One third of businesses that need PPE expect a shortage

A little under one third (32.4%) of businesses that need PPE expect a shortage in the next three months for at least one type of PPE that they require. An additional one in five businesses (22.0%) are also unsure if they will experience a shortage in the next three months for at least one type of PPE that they need, so that less than half (45.6%) of businesses do not expect a shortage for any of the PPE they need (chart 2).Note This compares with two thirds (65.8%) of businesses that did not experience or expect to experience a difficulty procuring PPE in May (Statistics Canada, 2020b), suggesting that supplies of PPE are less certain than in May, and echoing concerns about lack of stockpile in the country (Dyer, 2020).

Chart 2 Businesses are uncertain about availability of PPE

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Region (appearing as row headers), Expects shortage in next 3 months and Unsure about shortage in next 3 months (appearing as column headers).
Region Expects a shortage of PPE in the next 3 months Unsure about a shortage of PPE in the next 3 months
Atlantic 37.5 17.9
Quebec 24.3 26.1
Ontario 29.7 24.8
Prairies 40.6 14.2
British Columbia 37.2 21.2

As with demand, concerns about availability of PPE vary by sector and type of PPE. Businesses in private health care and social assistance are the most likely to expect shortages, with half (49.1%) of businesses in this sector expecting a shortage in the next three months for at least one type of PPE they require, and an additional 16.6% unsure if they will experience a shortage. In total, about one third (34.3%) of these businesses are not expecting a shortage in the next three months. Businesses tend to have concerns about shortages for essential items in high demand, namely disinfectant wipes (53.2%), respirators (51.4%), disposable gowns (48.4%), and nitrile gloves (37.8%)—see chart 3.

Chart 3 Availability of certain products is more uncertain than others

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Product (appearing as row headers), Expects shortage in next 3 months and Unsure about shortage in next 3 months (appearing as column headers).
Product Expects a shortage of PPE in the next 3 months Unsure about a shortage of PPE in the next 3 months
Disinfectant 12.8 20.0
Disinfectant Wipes 31.5 21.8
Disposable Gowns 21.6 26.8
Eye Goggles 8.1 11.2
Face Shields 11.8 16.5
Hand Sanitizer 14.2 21.3
Nitrile Gloves 22.6 15.2
Respirators 32.9 18.5
Reusable Gowns 12.7 11.5
Shoe/Boot Covers 11.2 23.6
Surgical Masks 17.0 18.2
Thermometers 12.1 11.4

Early in the pandemic, concerns about availability of PPE stemmed largely from concerns about access to international supplies. As of July, 7.4% of businesses in the manufacturing, wholesale, and retail trade sectors are involved with the production or distribution of PPE. Despite a concerted effort by governments to acquire more PPE, and encourage manufacturers to produce PPE, one possible reason that many businesses are expecting shortages of PPE could be due to inequality in their inventories of PPE per employee. For disinfectant wipes, disposable gowns, nitrile gloves, and respirators—the items for which businesses are most likely to expect a shortage—the top quartile of businesses hold at least five to fifteen times the amount of PPE per employee working on site compared to the bottom quartile of businesses that need these items.Note Note Another possibility is that businesses are simply unsure about how much PPE they will need as employees return to work. Businesses that will not have more employees working on site in October than in July are 12.1 percentage points more likely to not expect a shortage between July and October for any of the PPE that they need, compared to businesses that will increase the number of employees working on site.Note

Data sources

Data for this analysis come from the Personal Protective Equipment Survey for July 2020. This voluntary survey aims to collect information on businesses’ supply, demand, and inventories of PPE. The sample for the July iteration of the survey has an overall response rate of 48.1%, and includes 3,593 businesses operating in Canada. An important piece of context for these data is that, due to COVID-19, there have been an unprecedented number of business closures, with certain regions of the country (e.g., Ontario) seeing an over 100% increase in closures, and certain industries (e.g., retail) seeing an over 200% increase in closures, in April 2020 compared to April 2019 (Lafrance-Cooke et al., 2020). Not only does this highlight the challenges for collecting these data, but it also means that the results only apply to those businesses that have at least partially resumed operations, not to businesses that have not resumed operations but will.

References

Dyer, E. (2020, July 11). The great PPE panic: How the pandemic caught Canada with its stockpiles down. CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ppe-pandemic-covid-coronavirus-masks-1.5645120.

Lafrance-Cooke, A., Macdonald, R., and Willox, M. (2020). Monthly openings and closings: Experimental series for Canada, the provinces, territories, and census metropolitan areas. Economic Insights, Statistics Canada catalogue 11-626-X. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-626-x/11-626-x2020014-eng.htm.

Statistics Canada. (2020a, July 10). Labour Force Survey, June 2020. The Daily, Statistics Canada catalogue 11-001-X. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200710/dq200710a-eng.htm.

Statistics Canada. (2020b, July 14). Canadian Survey of Business Conditions: Impact of COVID-19 on businesses in Canada, May 2020. The Daily, Statistics Canada catalogue 11-001-X. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200714/dq200714a-eng.htm.

Statistics Canada. (2020c, July 21). Investment in building construction, May 2020. The Daily, Statistics Canada catalogue 11-001-X. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200721/dq200721b-eng.htm

Statistics Canada. (2020d, July 21). Retail trade, May 2020. The Daily, Statistics Canada catalogue 11-001-X. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200721/dq200721a-eng.htm?HPA=1&indid=3660-1&indgeo=0.

Statistics Canada. (2020e, July 31). Gross domestic product by industry, May 2020. The Daily, Statistics Canada catalogue 11-001-X. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200731/dq200731a-eng.htm

Statistics Canada. (2020f, August 7). Labour Force Survey, July 2020. The Daily, Statistics Canada catalogue 11-001-X. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200807/dq200807a-eng.htm.

.

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: