Occupational health professionals should have a central role in championing proper glove use and preventing dermatitis in healthcare environments by working as a go-between between management, procurement, infection control and health and safety, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said.
In its guidance, Tools of the trade: RCN guidance for health care staff on glove use and the prevention of contact dermatitis, published in May 2012, the college outlined four key areas where it recommended that, in order to make a difference, OH needed to:
- provide advice on safe glove selection and risk assessment on latex glove use;
- introduce and facilitate health surveillance programmes;
- provide hand care guidance; and
- work collaboratively with infection prevention and control, management and procurement staff.
With an estimated 1.5 billion pairs of gloves issued across the NHS in England every year and around one in five nurses in Britain reporting work-related skin problems, the guidance intended to identify gaps in knowledge and support improved use of gloves in clinical practice.
The RCN recommended that hand hygiene education should include information to help staff to maintain the integrity of their skin as a result of work-based activities, including the importance of skin care and skin surveillance, the importance of good hand hygiene techniques and the use of hand moisturiser.
It argued that gloves should never be used as an alternative to hand hygiene and organisations must make clear their expectations regarding glove use and misuse through policies and procedures, education and audit.
The guidance called for the introduction of a "national validated glove use audit tool" to support the auditing of gloves. It also recommended that further work be carried out to understand what behaviours affect glove compliance and the best methods to deliver education and ensure compliance.
"The importance of local partnership working relating to the supply and use of gloves in practice should be emphasised between procurement, infection control, occupational health, and health and safety," the guidance adds.
"Further work is required to address glove use by non-clinical staff in relation to risks in healthcare."