Are the gloves coming off?

It’s now about almost three weeks since I started asking questions about gloves (if you haven’t seen the other posts they are here and here). Departmental policy, with approval from the UCL Safety Office, is that gloves should only be worn if there is a recognized need, to be determined on a case-by-case basis and that the routine wearing of gloves is to be discouraged.

So I went into our teaching labs today to see what was going on and to talk to the students. Slightly to my surprise, multiple boxes of disposable gloves had been issued, and perhaps as a result, over half of the students in the lab were wearing them. Here are two photographs of students who were making organic-soluble nickel complexes.

The hands of two undergraduates half way through a lab class in our Department. The question I put to them was: “Would your hands have this much stuff on them if you weren’t wearing gloves?”



I talked to them, and each one suggested that they probably wouldn’t have spilled as much had they been not been wearing gloves.  I also noticed that half of the students I spoke to (three out of six) used their gloves to adjust their hair while we talked. Another wiped his faces on the sleeve of his lab coat. None of them were aware of it until I pointed it out to them.

You might argue that this is a training issue and that we should spend more time spotting when students have dirty gloves and when they scratch or run their gloves through their hair. I would argue that these students need to take more responsibility for their own safety.

We have now received several hundred pairs of reusable Anson Sol-Vex nitrile gloves (shop around as prices vary wildly). For some reason they haven’t been issued to students in our teaching labs. We’ll see what happens over the next few days.


About Andrea Sella

My name is Andrea Sella. I teach and do research in chemistry at UCL in central London in the UK. I also spend a lot time doing public science, cycling with ballast in my panniers, and worrying about how to keep my family's energy consumption down.
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6 Responses to Are the gloves coming off?

  1. Flinkin’ blip! Especially like the “results” on the left hand gloves… We teach how and when to use gloves at school, but maybe they forget as they grow up.

  2. guthrie says:

    Ah, gloves. It’s one of my pet hates on those CSI programs where they wear gloves, then touch things or answer the phone or type on a computer without taking their gloves off. Sure it’s only evidence, why worry about cross-contamination.
    Possibly actually having worked with toxic chemicals and pharmaceuticals of untested nature I’m a bit strict about it, but I think you are doing the right thing making them think about what they are touching. Perhaps there are some smelly but fairly harmless compounds they could work with at some point? Then if they do contaminate themselves it will be obvious.
    The other thing is just keep them working away, the more practise they get the better.

  3. Hi Andrea,
    In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s an interesting project going on along similar lines at Keele (via Katherine Haxton’s blog)

  4. Pingback: More reasons for not wearing disposable gloves in the lab! | Solarsaddle's Blog

  5. Pingback: Flavours of Gloves in my Chemistry Lab | Lost in Scientia

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