Lab Gloves Outside Labs-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lab Gloves Outside Labs

lab glovesOkay, you are in the hallway in one of our laboratory buildings.  The person in front of you is wearing a lab coat and chemical protective gloves.  They use their gloved hands to open a door, guide themselves down stairs or press an elevator button.  Given that the purpose of the gloves is to keep chemicals off the user's hands, what do you think may be on the door, railing or button when the next person uses it?  Well, I don't know either, and that is the point.  It may be something dangerous.

Now, let's look at it another way:  Your gloves are clean and you are wearing them to protect your samples from contaminants from your hands.  You go down the hall, wearing your gloves, touching door knobs, elevator buttons and railings that a hundred or more other people have touched.  How's that working as far as protecting your samples from human contamination?  Not very good, really.  Wearing lab gloves outside the laboratory is not a good practice for two reasons.  First, if you are not taking lab contamination outside into the hall, you are at least giving the people who see you cause for concern that you are.  Second, if you are trying to protect your samples, there are far better ways of doing it than handling them with what will ultimately be contaminated gloves, such as by using secondary containment to carry them.

Thanks to Michael Patrick of MBIC for his help with this information!