The importance of washing our hands has been drummed into us over the last few months, but how do frontline workers exposed to Covid-19 every day protect against the dangers of the pandemic? ROWAN WATT-PRINGLE finds out more about the gloves protecting those who are protecting the nation
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suppliers have always known the importance of hand protection against hazardous substances, but this knowledge is now moving into the general consciousness. “People are becoming more mindful about PPE’s role in our society,'' says Karl Rottcher, product and business development manager for Uvex Safety South Africa. “They are beginning to realise the importance of safety gloves as a preventive measure; overall, improved hygiene practices and general awareness have greatly increased the effectiveness of PPE.”
Jennifer Alcock, marketing communications manager EMEA & Oceania for SHOWA, agrees: “Everybody is talking about PPE and taking it more seriously. Education is absolutely key, and a holistic approach to hand protection, encompassing the bigger picture of risks that workers face, is crucial.”
With this in mind, SHOWA offers several services helping customers make the right hand protection decision, while protective glove manufacturer Ansell offers a range of highly informative online Covid-19 safety resources.
One issue has been the massive spike in demand for single-use gloves, specifically for healthcare workers, but also from the general public for their own day-to-day hand protection.
“As people have become more aware of the importance of hand protection, we have seen over 20 times the usual demand for single-use products,” says Raymond Rainbird, channel and business development manager for Ansell in sub-Saharan Africa. “Obviously this is also creating challenges globally for the whole industry, in terms of increasing capacity and getting products to the end-user, with short lead times. However, since we control and own our manufacturing facilities, we can meet most of this demand and protect historical customers in healthcare and industrial applications to keep the economy progressing.”
Alcock also points to self-ownership of manufacturing facilities as integral to maintaining SHOWA’s supply chain, pointing out that many PPE users have had to turn to several suppliers, while there has also been a shift towards PPE solutions manufactured closer to home.
Rottcher says that the pandemic has highlighted the need for more synthetic materials to be developed. “This situation has put a huge demand on natural resources like latex, which is harvested from a handful of countries.”
Another problem with the huge spike in single-use PPE, according to Alcock, is the overflow of “unsullied” gloves ending up as rubbish. “We hope governments will set up processes to manage this, but in the meantime we now offer the world’s first biodegradable single-use gloves,”
“As many smaller companies try to enter the market, we’re already seeing a number of uncertified and non-standardised nitrile and latex products,” notes Rainbird. “It is vital to understand which products can be safely used by workers in Covid-19-related applications.” He recommends that customers make sure products are designed and certified for their specific application. The EN 374 European norm with the virus status is the certification required for dealing with Covid-19-related issues.
“At any time, customers should be able to request proof from the manufacturer or supplier that their product is virus certified and tested,” he says. “People need to realise that a glove is not just a glove. It needs to be certified and used in the right applications.”