Canadian Occupational Safety

January/February 2021

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 14 of 47 15 disposable medical gloves. Disposable gloves are being used in a multitude of occupations in Canada, including (but not limited to) health care, education, hospitality and retail. "What [manufacturers] are jumping onto now because of COVID is disposable gloves. Now when you walk in the street or go to [the] supermarket, you see people wearing disposable gloves. And, of course, there's a shortage of PPE, particularly gloves," says Lo. Lo says that, because of this high demand and low supply, there have been a lot of scams in recent months. Cost has also become a big concern for manufacturers and buyers alike. This issue isn't just facing the glove sector in the current COVID climate but other key markets such as respiratory protection. Sources say that this will have a dramatic impact on glove availability and pricing well into 2021. Broadly, there has and continues to be a huge demand for gloves. Availability is a huge concern for manufacturers. Furthermore, in ramping up production, the cost of raw materials is being driven up. This will make it difficult for factories. There are also obviously concerns over worker safety in manufacturing plants due to infection cases and, by extension, labour shortages. Although these gloves are necessary to fight the pandemic, Lo says one negative side effect is that a higher volume of disposable gloves being made out of nitrile also means that there will be a huge impact on the environment. "I think that, because of the pandemic, ecological and environmental concerns aren't really at the forefront anymore," says Lo. "I think people don't realize or forget that this is a large, unprecedented amount of waste that is being created. And some of it is actually toxic waste. And that needs to be dealt with in a specific manner. And, so, there's this massive concern." This is why manufacturers are now looking into cleaning and disinfecting solutions that could be used to sterilize nitrile gloves for re-use or are looking at making re-usable gloves. Hand sanitizer and soap and water work for non-sterile conditions. "I think there's this whole separate market now being created about making reusable [gloves] or at least cleaning agents that would be used to clean [gloves]," he says. These concerns are shared by others in the industry. How COVID-19 develops in 2021 remains to be seen, but the disposable glove market is certainly poised to dominate the safety glove conversation in the upcoming months. As stated when we first started our journey into hand protection, gloves have been a key piece of protection for workers for hundreds of years. With COVID likely to loom over worker safety for months, if not years to come, gloves won't be going anywhere any time soon. "They have to conduct a test and then do a report and then issue a certificate, without which we can't sell. We've come a long way as a health protection industry." Kwan Lo "We've come a long way as a health protection industry." "Nowadays, everyone's wearing a pair of gloves. So that's really what helps to keep the lifespan of the hands a little bit longer. You have this barrier to protect you from hazards, environment — whether it's work or leisure," says Lo. In addition to protecting the worker, there are other considerations to take into account. "It's not just protecting the wearer, it's also about protecting the product," says Lo. He raises the example of people who work with glass and how gloves are important because one would not want to get fingerprints on it. How has COVID-19 impacted hand protection? COVID-19 has broadly impacted PPE in a number of ways. With regards to hand protection, one key piece of PPE has been dragged into the spotlight:

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