During this pandemic we are in, I have observed a major increase in glove use, this from service stations to fast food restaurants. What I have observed is a little scary with glove use nearly being universally, undertaken incorrectly. Observations included the following:
- Persons using gloves to handle money then food items;
- Persons handing different raw ingredients;
- Persons undertaking multiple tasks using the same pair i.e. Handling EFTPOS, then making a drink, then wrapping a sandwich, then wiping a bench (this all the same person in a 5 minute period!);
- Persons not changing gloves regularly;
- Persons scratching their face, then handling food items; and
- My personal favourite washing gloved hands!
In my career, I have heard lots of conflicting opinions on glove usage, in my humble view, glove use not done correctly will directly put food handlers in danger of not only contaminating food but potentially contaminating themselves!
After a deep dive on glove use trends across Brisbane and some causal questioning of staff observed using the gloves in questions, here is what I learned: There is simply no consensus on correct glove use! Most thought they were using the gloves correctly and genuinely believed they were protecting themselves and others by wearing the gloves.
So, I thought a little pro and con for both glove and hand use methods would be of benefit.
Glove Use Pros:
- Reduces the incidence of food handler transmitted illnesses
- Is a faster way to insure hand cleanliness than the same number of hand washes as glove changes
- Gives a perception to a patron that sanitation is a priority
- Covers any wounds or flaking skin (I know, gross, right?)
Glove Use Cons:
- Provides a false sense of security for operators
- Are rarely used property
- Reduces the number of hand washes which creates more risk
- Has a fairly terrible environmental impact
- Slows and changes service if all staff that touches uncooked food must wear gloves
- Expensive to implement when gloves are used and changed according to a proper schedule
There has been a growing tendency to rely on gloves as the fix to combat COBID-19 and other food borne illnesses and there are obvious reasons why.
Unfortunately, they are mostly for perception and gloves alone can actually become more dangerous. However, bare handed work introduces some of its own perils!
Bare Hands Pros:
- Food service and preparation people claim that with no gloves they maintain a better feel and control of their actions reducing accidents
- Staff are more aware of the need to wash their hands and feel less invincible
- Frequent hand washing creates the most sanitary situation
Bare Hands Cons
- You MUST wash your hands often and when it’s busy it can be forgotten
- Requires consistent reminders and training on hygiene systems and process
- May require additional hand sink infrastructure or sanitising facilities
So, what’s the best (and safety) way to protect from germs in the service and food handling industry?
The simple truth as there is no quick fix or easy answer. Not washing hands correctly can provide contamination sources same as incorrect glove use!
In the end it is all about awareness and training, knowledge is power and if staff are regularly trained, then correct processes are more likely to be followed.
Correct Glove Use:
Wearing gloves does not replace the need for hand hygiene.
Gloves do not provide complete protection against hand contamination. Microorganisms may gain access to a workers' hands via small defects in gloves, or by contamination of the hands during glove removal.
Remember to wash your hands prior to putting gloves on and completely dry them.
Make sure they fit properly, al glove that is too big can fall off and a glove that is too small can tear more easily.
Change these when necessary, you must change gloves at the following times:
- When they become soiled
- When changing tasks
- AT LEAST every 2 hours of continual use (doing the same task)
- After handling raw meat, fish or poultry
- Before handling ready to eat food items after handing anything else
- If you have touched your face, hair or other exposed body part to scratch etc
Removing gloves properly is also important, Grasp them at the cuff and peel them off inside out over your fingers, avoid touching your palm or fingers with contaminated parts of the glove.
Wash hands regularly even with glove use. NEVER wash or reuse gloves as these are single use items!
Correct Hand Washing:
Hand washing is (in my opinion) the best line of defence. This must be done regularly (more regularly then you think), as in the points listed above.
- Wet your hands first and rinse with clean running water (warm preferably)
- Apply soap and lather by rubbing them together
- Lather the backs of your hands
- Rub between your fingers over backs of hands and with palms facing forward
- Clasp hands together with fingers to opposing palms and twist hands to clean fingernails
- Rub rotationally left thumb to right palm and vice versa
- Rinse hands thoroughly with water and dry with clean paper towel or air hand dryer
- Never use cloths or tea towels to dry hands, this can re-contaminate them!
If soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Why? Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, Norovirus, and Clostridium difficile.
Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried.
When using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount, but usually a blob the size of a 20 cent piece is sufficient) and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry