AUTHOR: BRIAN MOSLEY
INNOVATION FOR PPE SKIN PROTECTION: REQUIRED IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic has ratcheted up the nation’s awareness for sound skin and hand protection, Facility Managers have had to account for this virus in ways others haven’t.
Facility Safety Managers already faced a complex and ever-changing landscape of potential emergencies and disasters to prepare for before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Today, managers and professionals are re-writing the playbook-if there even was a playbook – to protect workers, facility occupants, and even consumers from COVID-19 health risks.
The challenges are multi-faced for manufacturing, healthcare, food processing, government, and other facilities that must determine a way to operate safely, and whose frontline workers deliver essential services and good to the public. A key area of focus is personal protective equipment (PPE) usage for skin protection, and the U.DS. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has provided guidance on wearing gloves, eye/face protection, and other ppe.
With regards to gloves, best practices are being matched with innovation to create, for example, higher performance single-use, nitrile gloves that protect workers against COVID-19, their coworkers, and other skin dangers. For Facility Safety Managers, gaining a better understanding of glove requirements, variations in glove protection, and developments in innovation when it comes to the environmental impact of disposable gloves can enhance worker safety.
In 2016, the International Organization for Standardization revamped its international testing standards for protective gloves against dangerous chemicals and micro-organisms, including viruses, bacteria, and funguses. The revised testing measures include three main areas glove manufacturers must prevent:
Penetration: gloves should be impervious to cracks or imperfections that would allow chemicals and/or micro-organisms to force their way through and infect a user’s skin.
Permeation: the measurement of breakthrough times, or how long it takes for the hazardous material to come in contact with the skin after piercing the glove’s surface.
Degradation: the change in the physical makeup of the glove caused by contact from a certain material. Degradation can be recognized by a change in the gloves’s color, appearance, or texture.
Not all gloves are equally equipped to protect against unseen pathogens. Rigorous testing by glove manufacturers and distributors is required to ensure their products are up to the last industry standards. A glove that meets the above criteria is the baseline for protecting industry workers, but there is still more that business can do.
Single-use, nitrile gloves have been around since 1991. They were originally developed to solve allergic reactions to natural latex proteins, a common issue during the height of the aids pandemic. Nitrile gloves also offer more tensile strength and durability than a traditional natural rubber latex glove, making them an ideal form of protection for first responders, tsa employees, chemical lab workers, and food processors and handlers.
Single-use products come with a catch: rarely are they disposed of correctly. Over 1 billion gloves are thrown away globally each year. If laid out end to end continuously, that’s 13,2 million miles long, or 530 trips around the globe. This is a troubling statistic, one that is only going to increase this year due to the abundance of single-use, nitrile gloves that have been deployed in the fight against COVID-19.
The question facing many facility managers is how do they dispose of these gloves in a way that will be environmentally responsible? In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on green initiatives to be included in the manufacturing of PPE. Companies now have eco-friendly initiatives in place to find PPE made of sustainable materials that do not diminish the quality of the product.
One key technological innovation in nitrile glove manufacturing has been the infusion of biodegradable materials. Once these biodegradable gloves have been disposed of and discarded at active landfill sites, micro-organisms excrete enzymes that break down the bonds of nitrile polymer. Organic soil, water, carbon dioxide, and methane are left in the glove’s place. The enriched soil can even foster new plant life.
Studies have shown these materials do not alter nitrile glove’s appearance, elongation, or tensile properties. They also maintain the same performance and protection from chemicals, viruses, and bacterias. Some test results have shown these products degrade up to 60-70 percent in just over a year.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has ratcheted up the nation’s awareness for sound skin and hand protection, facility managers have had to account for this virus in ways others haven’t. PPE gloves that are durable, eco-friendly, and other protection for worker’s hands from all threats – including viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and other hazardous materials – are the type of product facility managers should be investing in to maximize worker’s safety in these unknown times.
Brian Moseley is Technical and R&D Manager for Showa Group.
See this article on:Facility Safety Management