Best Practice for Protecting the Hands of Hospital Housekeepers

I recently got this question asked of me: Our Infection Control Committee is directing the Housekeepers to wash their hand between patient rooms, regardless of using gloves. What is your facilities policy? Darrel Hicks — do you have some feedback that can be given?
My response–Housekeepers who wear latex exam gloves to do wet cleaning and disinfection are at risk of exposure to chemical absorption and dangerous pathogens.
It is my opinion (and that of OSHA) the Housekeepers should be wearing Nitrile gloves to protect their hands, not latex exam gloves. The Nitrile glove we use will allow the Housekeeper to have her hands in a bucket of disinfectant for up to 6 hours a day without any “strike through” (according to OSHA General Duty Clause, this is a requirement for cleaning folks whose hands are in chemicals for extended periods of time). Since no wetness passes through this Nitrile glove, I believe it also stands to reason, neither do any pathogenic organisms. Latex exam gloves are notorious for having pin point holes in them.
I agree with your Infection Control nurses: If your housekeepers are wearing latex exam gloves to do wet cleaning and disinfection, they should change their gloves and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer between patient‘s room.
So, you have two hazards at work when your staff wear latex exam gloves to clean with: 1) Absorption of chemicals leaching through pin holes (what is the dermal toxicity of your cleaning chemicals and disinfectants?) 2) Dangerous pathogens passing through those same tiny holes exposing the skin of workers; possibly allowing for a portal of entry.
I believe both dangers would be avoided by getting a good, Nitrile glove (with a letter from the manufacturer stating no chemical strike through for up to 6 hours and then file it away in the event that OSHA comes calling).
Every time my employees change their Nitrile gloves, they wash with soap and water or sanitize their hands with Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizers. I believe this is a best practice to engage in for your employee’s health and safety.



About Darrel Hicks

J. Darrel Hicks, B.A., is the author of Wiley Publishing's "Infection Prevention For Dummies", and is nationally recognized as one of the top experts in infection control. Darrel Hicks is also the Past President of the IEHA and is an active member in AHE where he holds the designation of CHESP. View all posts by Darrel Hicks

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