July 15, 2020

To Glove or Not to Glove During COVID-19

Much like face masks, there continues to be controversy surrounding whether or not to wear gloves to protect a person from COVID-19. Different perspectives exist because gloves, much like all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), can instill a false sense of security for the person wearing them. If the gloves are doffed (removed) improperly, the person ends up getting exposed to the virus anyways and this situation may actually cause more hazard than if they never wore the PPE in the first place.

It is common to see people in public wearing gloves, particularly while shopping. During this time, it’s not unusual to witness many people using gloves and other forms of PPE, incorrectly. For example, I have personally seen many people wearing gloves while grocery shopping. They touch their grocery cart, multiple products on the shelf and in the produce aisle, but then they also continue to wear these same gloves to operate their phones, answer calls, text and pay for their groceries. Getting to their car, they still don’t change over to new gloves but instead hop in and drive away in their car while still wearing them!

If a person is wearing gloves, this PPE should be used for task-specific activities. If they change tasks, the person must either dispose of the gloves OR treat the gloves as if they weren’t wearing gloves at all. For this last scenario, this would include washing hands or applying hand sanitizer while the person is wearing the gloves. Although it might sound silly to wash your gloves, this is the reality of glove use. As the COVID-19 virus does not penetrate our skin into our body, it means that gloves will actually only offer very limited protection. Viruses still spread by touch whether a person is wearing gloves are not. This is why during the pandemic, hand washing is so incredibly effective.

Consider this rule of thumb: if a person wore gloves for their job pre COVID-19, they will still need to wear them during this time. There are some jobs now, however, that will also require the use of gloves such as when:

  • Handling mail and parcels
  • Dealing with cash
  • Touching items that have crossed many hands

If a person’s current occupation now requires them to wear gloves, it is essential that certain policies and procedures are put in place, as well as an established employee training program. This documentation should be easily accessible to all staff to help ensure procedures are properly implemented and followed on an ongoing basis.

It is also important to understand that there are many different types of gloves available so it’s equally as important to ensure that a person selects the right glove for the particular task at hand. Unfortunately, no “one glove” currently exists that offers protection against all situations and substances.

Medical gloves, for example, are sterile and meant to be used in sterile environments. By contrast, these medical-grade gloves would be useless to a mechanic because a car engine is far from sterile, nor could the machinery contract a potential virus. Using medical grade gloves for mechanics may not not even offer the wearer any protection from the types of chemicals a mechanic could be using. If a person is planning to using chemicals, it is critical that they refer to the corresponding Safety Data Sheets before glove selection takes place, to ensure sufficient protection.

Further to this, although latex gloves are inexpensive and offer a good level of protection from blood borne pathogens, nitrile gloves actually provide better protection against a wide range of chemicals and solvents. Nitrile gloves however are not great for safeguarding against oxidizing acids.

Have questions about gloves and which one is best for a particular project that you’re working on? Ansell has an excellent guide on the types of glove materials, and chemicals they protect you from, found here.

For more information about decontamination and other COVID-19 related tips, please check out our other blogs and articles on our website.

If you require decontamination as part of your reopening plan, please call us anytime, day or night at 1-888-663-6604.

Have an idea about a future blog or video? Please let us know at contactus@onside.ca

About the Author

Justin McConville, CRSP, Leader, Health, Safety & Environmental, On Side Restoration Services. Justin holds professional certifications as a Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP). He has worked for On Side Restoration for the past 16 years, where he is responsible for the health and safety of over 1,300 On Side employees across Canada as well as the company’s hazardous materials divisions. Justin has been instrumental in the development of various policies and procedures to ensure continued compliance with multi-provincial regulatory requirements. Justin is an active member on the BCCSA Technical Advisory Committee which is focused on the development of industry safety standards and training. He is also a contributing member and subject matter expert on various committees including the WorkSafeBC/BCCSA: Prime contractor Committee, Asbestos Task Force Committee and Hazardous Materials Exposure Control Plan Committee. He was awarded the 2018 Safety & Health Week Champion Award by the BC Construction Safety Alliance for his dedication to and contribution in the development of industry safety resources.