Does OSHA require that employees wear gloves?
Yes, when exposed to hazards. Hand protection is required when employee’s hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.
As per 29 CFR 1910.1030, gloves must be worn when hands are in contact with blood, other potentially infectious materials, mucous membranes, and non-intact skin; when performing vascular access procedures (with some exceptions), and when handling or touching contaminated items or surfaces (OSHA defines contamination as the presence or reasonably anticipated presence of blood or other potentially infectious materials). OSHA also requires that employers provide hypoallergenic gloves in the presence of bloodborne pathogens.
Is the employer responsible for providing gloves and other personal protection equipment (PPE)?
According to 29 CFR 1910.132, employers are required to provide employees protective equipment (including hand protection) at no cost to employees, excluding some speciality foot and eyewear, everyday clothing, or clothing used solely for protection from weather. The employer must also pay for replacement personal protective equipment, except when the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the equipment.
Does OSHA restrict the types of gloves I may use?
No. OSHA regulations specify that employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.
When in contact with hazardous chemicals, consult a Chemical Resistance Guide to determine which glove types provide the most effective barriers against the chemical being handled.
How often should gloves be changed?
OSHA does not have any all-encompassing guidelines governing when gloves should be changed. Users in healthcare settings, or other environments exposed to bloodborne pathogens are required to change disposable gloves when:
- The glove is penetrated by blood or other potentially infectious materials
- When contaminated or as soon as feasible if they are torn, punctured, or when their ability to function as a barrier is compromised
- Between each patient, and
- Prior to leaving the work area
OSHA does not require that gloves be changed between patients if they are not contaminated and their barrier properties are not compromised. This practice is however recommended to prevent patient-to-patient transmission of disease.
Do OSHA regulations vary from state to state?
Yes. Twenty-four states have state-level plans, which may have additional stipulations regarding the use of disposable gloves. Contact your state’s Department of Labor for more information regarding its policies.