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A Japanese study confirmed what many health care workers had already suspected about bacteria: once contaminated, hospital worker gloves can transfer any bacteria to another surface, especially if it’s made of plastic. And, even worse, the type of bacteria known as Acinetobacter baumannii is so persistent, it’s even detectable on hospital bed rails as many as 9 days after contamination.
Unfortunately, there is no failsafe for preventing work glove contamination. Where there is contact, bacteria can transfer. However, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself and the people around you healthier, and also make the breeding ground of bacteria a little less friendly.
Here are three tips to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination in your workplace:
Bacteria control in health care situations is no joke. Disposable gloves — whether latex, nitrile, or another material — should always go directly into the appropriate waste bin once you’re finished using them.
They’re not designed to be cleaned: they’re designed to be replaced. They should never come in contact with you or another person after the required contact is over. Although some types of bacteria die off after a few minutes, some won’t. That means that contamination can happen at almost any time.
Use the appropriate de-gloving techniques in order to prevent your skin from touching any part of the gloves that might be contaminated. Always wear new, clean gloves before contacting another patient or any surface in an examination area. This is vital, potentially life-saving protocol for every health care worker.
Bacteria doesn’t just live in hospitals: it’s virtually everywhere. And, because the human eye can’t see them without the aid of a microscope, you’ll never know if bacteria is present or what strain one type happens to be. Of course, this means that work gloves used by construction workers, loggers, and people in any other industry can be bacteria-laden throughout.
Many work gloves are washable, and that’s one of the most effective approaches for knocking down bacteria colonies and starting fresh. The problem is, you can’t machine launder your gloves every single day. With each cycle, the material has a new chance to break down and lose its original level of hand protection.
And, unfortunately, some gloves can’t be machine-laundered at all. If that’s the case, check with your work glove specialist to learn whether gentle hand laundering is a viable option for the gloves that you use on a daily basis.
According to the study mentioned above, many strains of bacteria are virtually undetectable after a few hours. However, you can’t count on clean gloves just because some time has passed. And, although sunlight is the mortal enemy of certain strains, the Brucella variety becomes 10 times more deadly in the presence of UV rays.
Unfortunately, you’ll never know which bacteria is present on your gloves and which isn’t. And, aside from thorough laundering, the same approach won’t work for everything. But keeping gloves dry and airing them out can help eliminate the environment that serves as a breeding ground for many different types of bacteria. And, depending on the material that your gloves are made of, this might also help reduce the population of the bacteria as well.
Bacteria is everywhere. It’s on the glass that you drink from, the steering wheel of your vehicle, and probably on your favourite pair of work gloves. Eliminating the hazard permanently is an exercise in futility. However, you can take extra measures to protect yourself, the people you work with, and the surfaces in your workplace from the spreading of a dangerous colony.
Laundering work gloves, and taking the time to properly dispose of the reusable ones are perhaps the best ways to keep those pesky, invisible hazards under control. The key to good health is good habits.
Not entirely sure how to clean your gloves? Check out our Glove Laundering 101 guide.
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Hand Injury Rates are Reduced by 60% when using the right gloves.