A generation ago U.S. workers were just beginning
to understand the importance of single-use, disposable
gloves. Today’s health care professionals
wouldn’t consider anything but single-use disposable
glove protocols. All bodily fluids are presumed
to be contaminated, and as a result, disposable gloves
have ventured far beyond the health care environment.
Controlling communicable disease
The control of certain communicable
diseases is testament to the effectiveness of
glove wearing, especially when combined with
hand washing. Infectious disease threats continue
to emerge, however, and old problems linger.
In their combined report, “Health, United States,
2009,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Center for Statistics, and the
U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services note that, “The number of new cases
of many infectious diseases, such as measles and
rubella, has decreased greatly as a result of vaccination
and other prevention initiatives. However, incidence
rates of some communicable diseases, including
chlamydia, have increased. In addition, newly
recognized infectious agents have emerged and
caused substantial public health concern and investment.
These include influenza H1N1, SARS, H5N1
avian influenza, and some particularly virulent or
drug-resistant bacterial strains, such as Methicillin-
Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).”
Due to the simplicity of the technology and
the product’s exceptional performance, protective
gloves were originally made of natural rubber latex
(NRL). It wasn’t until the 1980’s threat of HIV,
however, that disposable glove wearing proliferated.
Because of allergic reactions, the need for
glove materials other than latex soon became
apparent. OSHA’s estimates of the number
of people allergic to latex range from 6 to 17
percent of the population with the majority
suffering from contact dermatitis. A second
type of allergic reaction can occur with latex
gloves manufactured with certain chemicals.
The most serious type of allergic reaction, however,
occurs in only about one percent of the
cases; this reaction can compromise the body’s
immune system. Because of these risks, disposable
gloves are produced in both latex and latexfree
materials such as nitrile and vinyl.
Present-day technology produces hi-tech
gloves that safeguard users against biological
warfare as well as against bacterial and viral
contamination. Increasing global demand for
medical, household and other purpose disposable
gloves is driven by an increasing population
and by a rising emphasis on health, occupational
safety and hygiene among end-users
including individual consumers and the food,
medical, dental and service industries.
Evaluate your workplace
Employers who have never thought about the
need for disposable gloves are asking questions
such as: Who in my organization is likely to need
disposable hand protection? Which employees share
phones, computers and office equipment? Who
continually interacts with the public or regularly
handles items from unknown sources?
These questions must be answered in order to determine
the best safety practices for your organization.
These might include equipping the mail room with disposable
gloves, placing disposable gloves in all company
restrooms, giving janitorial staff disposable gloves in
addition to the reusable gloves they already have, making
disposable gloves readily available to reception and
security personnel and making all employees aware of
where they can access disposable gloves when needed.
Although few employees face the day-to-day challenges
faced by law enforcement officers, their standards
offer a good guide for those who do face possible exposure.
A summary of the University of Texas at Austin
Police Department guidelines includes the following:
Choosing disposable gloves
- Carry protective gloves while on duty.
- Ensure that gloves are not torn prior to use â€”
rings, jewelry or long fingernails may compromise
the glove’s strength.
- Properly dispose of used gloves.
- Not leave gloves at the scene of a call or arrest.
- Use gloves when: searching arrested persons;
searching vehicles (to avoid being stuck with hypodermic
needles and other dangerous objects); handling, packaging
or transporting items that may contain blood or bodily
fluids; administering first aid to injured persons when
there is a risk of exposure to blood or body fluids; cleaning
areas contaminated by blood spills or bodily fluid.
- Wash their hands after using gloves.
- Not re-use gloves.
Before purchasing any glove, whether it is manufactured
using latex, vinyl or Nitrile, companies must
assess a few factors:
- What amount of protection will employees need?
- Are any employees allergic to any glove materials?
- What is the quality of the glove?
- Do you prefer powdered or unpowdered gloves?
- How comfortable is the glove?
- What size gloves are needed?
Protective gloves are scaled upon three standard
- Medical grade offers the highest grade of protection;
they must surpass FDA requirements and
exceed a broad range of specifications.
- High-risk gloves meet the high levels of testing
required for use in the emergency medical services fields.
- Utility grade, normally used for painting
and general hand protection, are manufactured to
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
Once you have determined the grade of glove
needed, you must determine which glove materials
are best for your employees. You might, for example,
choose latex gloves in general, but choose a non-latex
glove for employees with allergy issues. A quick look
at the three main disposable glove materials may help
you in your assessment.
Taking on the challenge
- Latex gloves offer flexibility, comfort and fit.
They are still the most popular but are accompanied
by the risk of
standard barrier protection
and are made from
polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They are great
for resistance against liquids but should not be used
in high-risk environments,
- Nitrile disposable gloves eliminate the risk of latex
allergy while offering excellent durability, strength and
tactile sensitivity. Widely regarded as the optimal alternative
to latex gloves, they are manufactured using synthetic
latex, contain no latex proteins and are three times
more puncture-resistant than natural rubber.
Disposable gloves have earned a permanent place
in the American workplace, and every year more and
more employers are adding them to their safety programs.
Isn’t it time you discovered where disposable
gloves fit into your workplace?