News & Events

Is vinyl the best glove for your personal protection?

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
March 2005 Edition

By Chris Pontus, MS, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director, Health & Safety

We use gloves to protect us from a broad range of unsafe conditions found while working in health care, including but not limited to biological (bacterial and viral substances), chemotherapy drugs, sterilants and chemicals.

The objective of a work site hazard-assesment for glove use is to establish and document the known and anticipated hazards that workers can encounter when performing certain tasks. Information produced from a properly conducted hazard-assessment will enable the selection of appropriate gloves for each workers’ tasks.

If you are given vinyl gloves to wear on the job, make sure they are designated by the manufacturer for the job task. When vinyl gloves are used in health care their utilization must be evaluated. Some hospitals choose to offer healthcare workers vinyl gloves as personal protective equipment (PPE) because of vinyl’s low cost factor. However cost must not be the governing constraint for selection of PPE.

Heightened concerns exist for those working with biological hazards. For example, physical-barrier-protection as well as sensitivity and dexterity are key requirements when considering a glove choice. Thin disposable vinyl gloves are intended to minimize product contamination and use when handling food or working in a clean environment. Vinyl gloves do not offer the same degree of personal protection of a glove with superior "barrier performance."

Glove durability catagories are rated from low to moderate and then high. The low durability glove (vinyl) is recommended by Kimberly-Clark to be used with tasks not involving: a) risk of infection, b) dispensing general medication, c) transportation of patients and specimen container(s), d) administering routine oral care and noninvasive general physical examinations.1

MNA position
The MNA believes that, consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (5)(a)(1) of 1970 (2), employers have a responsibilty to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.2

"The Massachuttes Nurses Association believes that patients, nurses, other health care professionals and staff should not be exposed and sensitized to natural rubber latex through dermal contact, mucosal contact, inhalation percutaneous contact or wound inoculation. There is no reseach data to suggest that even low protein, low powder latex gloves are safe for use with latex allergic patients or staff. To the contary, while low protein, low powder gloves may decrease the rate of sensitization, there is data and a growing number of compelling anecdotal reports to suggest that health care workers and patients can have serious reactions to latex gloves, regardless of the allergenicity and powder content."

To learn more about products with appropriate barrier protection for your specific tasks go to the "sustainable hospitals" Web site at


2 MNA position statement on latex allergy