Reactions to Natural Rubber Latex (NRL) products impact on staff working in housekeeping & domestic services in healthcare because:
- In situations where staff use NRL gloves in the course of their duties, they are at increased risk of developing latex allergy through the repeated use of these.
- They have a statutory responsibility to reduce risk of sensitisation in themselves, their colleagues and their customers/consumers.
Ensure you have and are familiar with:
- A written policy on action to protect staff from developing NRL allergy
- A written policy on safe accommodation of latex-sensitive members of staff
- An Education programme to inform new and existing staff.
- Educational materials for staff information, clearly displayed and on file, e.g. Posters
- An Occupational Health surveillance programme, which includes pre-employment screening
- Guidance on Latex Glove Selection to aid glove choice
- A named responsible person for managing Health and Safety
Latex gloves are widely used in housekeeping. However, some people become allergic to the proteins in NRL, and subsequent reactions to NRL-containing products can range from mild to severe, occasionally even life threatening.
This may not only impact on the staff who wear the gloves but also on latex-sensitive people who may be patients or staff.
Natural rubber latex gloves are simply not usually required for housekeeping duties as there are synthetic alternatives which will give an equally effective barrier. In many hospitals, different coloured gloves are used for different tasks. A variety of colours are available through the manufacturers and NHS Catalogue in strong PVC gloves which can be allocated to different tasks such a toilet, kitchen and general cleaning etc.
- Be aware that there may be NRL-allergic patients in wards and departments and look for warning notices that the staff may have put up to make you and others aware of this Warning notice for entrances.
- Before approaching bed-spaces of allergic patients, be sure that you are not using any NRL-containing products. If you are unsure, check with the nurses or your supervisor.
- Do not use the ward or department NRL gloves for cleaning purposes. They are in the wards and departments for medical and nursing duties.
- Select the right non-NRL glove for the task (each hospital will have their own glove colour protocols for each type of cleaning).
- When you have completed the task, wash and remove gloves and wash and dry hands thoroughly.
Care of hands
Use perfume-free water based hand creams at the end of each working session to keep your hands in good condition. See our Skin care protocol for information.
If staff are identified as sensitised to NRL, Occupational Health must work with the senior member of staff in the department to undertake a risk-assessment to ensure that the working environment is safe for the continuing employment of the affected member of staff. Risk minimisation and education of colleagues is vital.