If you’re considering gloves for workplace safety, you have a few decisions to make. First of all, do you need to ask employees and guests to wear gloves? And second, which gloves should you get?
When and Why to Wear Gloves
It’s been confirmed that the wearing of masks can reduce transmission of coronavirus up to 85%. The CDC recommends that all people over the age of 2 wear masks indoors where social distancing is not always possible.
The CDC, for the general public, recommends the wearing of gloves when caring for sick people or cleaning and disinfecting. While the CDC does not deem it necessary for the average individual to wear gloves when, for example, shopping for groceries, this may change in some workplaces and shared environments.
Gyms and Spas
Wearing gloves is a good idea in “high touch” situations. While not a substitute for hand washing, gloves are useful in areas where frequent hand washing may not always be possible. For example, Los Angeles now requires the use of gloves, as well as masks, in gym facilities.
While the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines on glove use for safe food handling have not changed, they have certainly become all the more relevant. Food Code 2017 states that food service employees should always use single-use gloves, along with utensils that minimize contact with food. The FDA also adds this evergreen advice: Gloves are not a substitute for hand washing or hand hygiene.
Employees find the use of gloves reassuring in the workplace as well. In a survey conducted in late April, the use of personal protective equipment like gloves, along with masks and face shields, would make 55% of employees feel more comfortable about returning to work.
Medical and Health Settings
Gloves are strongly recommended in all medical and health settings, including many wellness-related settings, such as spas or salons—they are even required in some places, like Washington State.
Types of Gloves for Personal Protective Equipment
There are three primary types of gloves in use in the marketplace: latex, vinyl, and nitrile. Here are some considerations for choosing each.
Latex gloves are made from a natural rubber sap. They are stretchy and generally comfortable, and offer protection from bacteria and viruses. Latex gloves come in both powdered and non-powdered varieties. Powder (typically cornstarch) makes latex gloves easier to take off and put on, and keeps gloves from sticking to each other. Non-powdered gloves, of course, do not shed cornstarch, though they tend to be a bit stiffer to allow easier donning and removal.
Latex gloves do cause allergic reactions in some people—about 4% of the general population—which should be factored into your purchasing decision.
Nitrile gloves are made from synthetic rubber, and do not contain latex, making them safer for people with latex allergies, and almost as stretchy as latex. Nitrile gloves have a few other advantages over latex, aside from being non-allergenic. Unlike latex, a nitrile glove will tear if punctured, making it obvious the glove needs to be changed. Nitrile is also more resistant to chemicals than latex. For these reasons, nitrile gloves are widely used in healthcare settings and workplaces.
Vinyl gloves are generally the least expensive glove type, and are also latex-free. They tend to be stiff and do not conform to the hand like latex and nitrile gloves, making them less comfortable to wear. Vinyl is not chemical resistant.
Safe Glove Usage
Remember not to touch your face or other people with gloves, as there may be viruses on the surface of the gloves.
Remove gloves safety to avoid contamination. The best method of glove removal is called “beaking,” a method widely followed by medical professionals. After removing the gloves, make sure to dispose of them safely in a receptacle or garbage can—ideally one with a lid, to prevent any possible
Amir Hemmat is the current Senior Director of Public Health and Workplace Safety for Zeel. Amir has focused on the procurement and supply chain management of PPE supplies over the past two decades, beginning with his service as a Health Policy Consultant to the California State Legislature in 2001. He is a longtime advocate for, and policy advisor to, federal and local governments for affordable and accessible healthcare and equipment. Amir is also Senior Advisor for the Health Care and Manufacturing & Supply Chain practices for strategy consulting firm Monarch Global Strategies. In addition to his work with health care and PPE supply chains, he is a co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based tech startups Welcome Technologies and SABEResPODER. Amir has a B.A. in Economics from UCLA, a degree in Applied Physiology from Chicago Medical School, and a Masters of Public Health from the University of Southern California.