Worker putting on Protective Gloves with MCL Logo

There are a number of industries which will require workers to wear gloves, unrelated to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the desire to stop the spread of the virus, many people have considered gloves a form of protection. While there are certain environments where gloves are beneficial, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. This article will help determine when gloves are needed and how to safely and effectively use them.

You Should Use Gloves:

When you’re providing patient care 

Health care workers that may come into contact with blood, bodily fluids, mucous membranes or potentially infectious material should wear gloves to reduce the risk of contamination and decrease the circulation of germs into the environment and from worker to patient and vice-versa. Of course, for the gloves to be effective, they need to be removed after each contamination and/or before moving on to another patient. (continue reading for proper glove techniques)

If you have indirect contact with someone that is sick

Workers that have indirect patient contact such as cleaning and janitorial services or handling instruments should also use gloves. It is important to note that gloves may provide a false sense of protection and users need to be vigilant in taking proper precautions. If you touch a contaminated surface with a gloved or ungloved hand and then touch your face, you can get sick. 

Workers in health care environments will have stringent guidelines for all personal protective equipment and should refer to the advice of their supervisors.

If you are providing care for someone who is sick 

If you are caring for someone at home you may consider using disposable gloves when you will have contact with blood or bodily fluids such as saliva, mucus, vomit, etc. You’ll also want to ensure the frequently touched surfaces of your home are disinfected to help keep other family members healthy. Use single-use gloves while you clean these areas and dispose of them in a lined trash can. Wash your hands thoroughly after you have removed the gloves.

When cleaning

Wearing gloves is often a good idea when cleaning and disinfecting your home as they will protect your hands from harsh chemicals. It’s important to follow the precautions listed on the product and be sure to wash your hands after you have removed the gloves. 

When cleaning in a corporate or institutional environment, follow the procedures outlined by management and the health & safety team.

Food service

Ontario does not require food service workers to wear gloves, however, food needs to be protected from contamination. Many restaurants provide gloves to their employees, which is fine if they are worn appropriately. 

Gloves need to be changed if the user:

  • Changes from raw food to ready-to-eat food
  • Is cleaning or handling chemicals
  • Uses the washroom
  • Is handling money or non-food equipment
  • Is handling garbage
  • Coughs/sneezes or touches their mouth, face or hair

Gloves should also be used if the employee has cuts or sores on their hands or they are wearing nail polish or false nails. Gloves should always be used when handling or disposing of trash and when handling used plates, cutlery, etc.

When dealing with food, the most important thing to remember - gloves or not - is frequent hand washing.

You Should Not Use Gloves:

Gloves are not needed for everyday transactions like grocery shopping or using an ATM machine. The best way to protect yourself is by frequently washing your hands or using hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Keeping one like this in your purse or in the car will help when you’re out and about.

In fact, wearing gloves when you’re running errands can actually be more harmful than good. There is a false sense of security when wearing gloves and people often let down their guard when it comes to cross contamination and touching their face.

Proper Glove Use

Single-use gloves should never be reused or washed with soap and water or hand sanitizer. These products break down the integrity of the glove and defeat their protective purpose. If gloves are torn or soiled, they should be changed.

Gloves are not a replacement for proper hand hygiene. It is important for employers to have an appropriate supply of hand soap, hand sanitizer, gloves, as well as disinfecting wipes, paper towels, tissues, no-touch waste receptacles and dispensers. These tools as well as proper education and training will help employees use them most effectively. 

How to properly don gloves:

  1. Always wash your hands before donning gloves
  2. Hold the glove at the very top of the wrist area and put the first glove on
  3. Take the second glove out of the box with your bare hand, holding only the wrist area
  4. Using your first 2 fingers of your gloved hand, grasp the wrist area of the glove and guide onto the second hand
  5. Only touch the defined object/area to avoid cross contamination

How to properly remove gloves:

  1. Pinch the glove at the wrist, without touching the forearm, and peel away from the hand. The glove will turn inside out
  2. Holding the glove in the still-gloved hand, slide ungloved fingers into the wrist area of the glove and slide off the hand, rolling it down and folding into the other glove
  3. Discard the gloves in a lined garbage container
  4. Wash hands with soap and water

Hopefully these suggestions will help you determine whether or not gloves are needed. If you have specific questions about which gloves are best suited to your task or if you need any other products or equipment to complement your safety plan, reach out to our MCL team. We are available by email or by phone 1-800-430-9555 and are here to support a healthier community.