Fed up with constant glove ripping? This blog highlights the five major risks when gloves rip, and the solutions to safeguarding your staff, customers and your business compliance.
Wearing gloves is mandatory in multiple industries, from food processing to healthcare, protecting the food handled or patients being cared for. Gloves also provide a protective barrier for the wearer.
There are several causes of glove ripping, including inappropriate sizing and puncturing from sharp objects, but the most common reason is inferior glove quality reducing strength, stretch (elongation) and overall performance. Depending on the size of the hole, ripped gloves can be obvious to the wearer, though pinhole sized defects are common and often go unnoticed.
What are the Major Risks of a Ripped Glove?
Glove wearer exposure: Ripped gloves provide inadequate protection against chemicals and pathogens and can leave workers vulnerable to hazardous material exposure. For first responders and healthcare workers, glove quality should never be compromised. A compromised glove increases the chances of accidental exposure to dangerous substances such as fentanyl.
Food Contamination: Although gloves worn by food handlers are meant to protect food against hand contamination, a 2023 CDC report linked more than 40% of foodborne illness (FBI) outbreaks in retail food establishments to ill food workers. Both bare-hand and gloved-hand contact of ready-to-eat food were in the top six contributing factors. Why? Human hands contain up to 10 million microorganisms, and when combined with sweat (often increased by poor quality gloves), poor hand hygiene and a glove puncture, contamination from hands to food can occur.
It has been shown that up to 18,000 Staphylococci can pass through a single glove hole during a 20-minute period, even though the hands were washed for 10 minutes prior to gloving. When a glove break occurs, a liquid bridge of microbial contamination can flow from hands to food (Guzewich & Ross, 1999).
When a glove break occurs, a liquid bridge of microbial contamination can flow from hands to food.
Remember that the next time your glove rips! Despite the proven foodborne contamination risks of ripping gloves, FDA compliance for food handling gloves does not test for holes or performance. Durable, high performance gloves and good hand hygiene are essential to help prevent FBI outbreaks.
2. Glove Pieces in Food
Physical contamination from glove pieces in food can affect production lines, causing costly stoppages. Foreign material contamination, like these glove pieces that caused a product recall, can damage a brand's reputation and lead to financial losses.
3. Worker Efficiency Reduced
Excessive time wasted changing gloves and hand washing between changes is inefficient, with excess hand washing responsible for skin issues. Reports of workers double and even triple gloving is not uncommon, so workflow is not disrupted, adding an additional level of contamination risk.
4. ROI Impacted: Increased Cost & Waste
We’ve seen frequent glove ripping double a company’s glove usage, with obvious relative cost and waste increases. Additionally, the production inefficiencies caused by using low quality gloves (see risk #4) directly impacts company margins. Cheap gloves can negatively affect longer-term ROI.
5. Regulatory Non-Compliance
In regulated industries like healthcare and food handling, using damaged gloves (often holes so small they are unnoticed by the glove wearer) can lead to non-compliance. In food processing, a cheap and inferior quality glove may not comply with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements. FDA Title 21 Part 110 - Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP 21 CFR 110.10) states gloves must be in an “intact, clean, and sanitary condition” and made from “impermeable” material. Despite FDA GMP standards, there is no AQL (acceptable quality level) requirement for food handling gloves with FDA (21 CFR 177) compliance. This means there are no critical quality control standards used to assess the level of defects of food grade gloves. Microbial contamination can transfer through a glove defect, often unnoticed by the user. Unlike food handling gloves, an AQL of 2.5 is the industry-standard for examination gloves, ensuring a consistent and acceptable quality and performance standard. Interested? Read more about why we recommend using medical grade gloves with an AQL of 2.5 for food handling.
Solutions to Ripping Gloves
- Quality Assurance in Sourcing: When purchasing gloves, source them from reputable manufacturers or suppliers that adhere to stringent quality control measures and supply chain traceability.
- Tested Durability: Consistent and proven glove quality and performance is crucial to avoid the risks of glove ripping. Can your supplier provide independent performance tests and factory audits.
- Medical Grade Quality: We recommend food processing companies demand that an AQL of 2.5 (maximum pinhole defects per 100 gloves), in keeping with examination grade glove standards, be included in the glove sourcing specifications.
- Glove Trials: With limited compliance measures on importation, glove trials are essential to establish actual glove quality and performance.
- Correct Glove Type: Select the appropriate glove material for the task. For example, nitrile gloves are known for their durability and resistance to tearing. Polyethylene gloves can be a great choice for light industrial use as well as light food processing, handling and assembly. We do not recommend the use of vinyl gloves due to food safety, glove wearer and environmental risks, and because of this stopped selling these in 2018.
- Correct Sizing: Multiple glove sizes should be available to ensure every team member has a glove with a proper fit. This is non-negotiable.
Unsure what disposable glove is right for you? Check out our food safety glove selection guide or speak to our Eagle sales team for your solution.