Gloves and masks are mandatory for all customers and employees at the airport in Dubai and are distributed in complimentary hygiene kits – Photo credit: Emirates

​Next to masks, there is one item of personal protection equipment (PPE) that is essential to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus – gloves. Why are they so crucial for airlines and airports? Let’s take a look.

Why are gloves necessary?

Disposable medical-grade latex gloves allow airline and airport staff to handle potentially contaminated materials and objects, with a lower risk of transferring the virus. They serve as a physical barrier between the skin and other items, allowing virus particles to remain on the surface of the gloves, which can then be disposed of when the gloves are removed.

Gloves do not destroy viruses like anti-bacterial gel or sanitising spray. They only provide a barrier over the wearer’s skin, like gowns, aprons and full suit PPE’s.

Why are they essential against the coronavirus?

Gloves are a game-changer when it comes to battling the coronavirus. This is because of the way the virus spreads.

  • The Coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t exist in the air outside of respiratory droplets. It is unlikely you will catch it from someone without them being incredibly close.
  • However, it can exist on surfaces for hours, if not days, and an unsuspecting person who touches these surfaces without gloves may unintentionally transfer the virus to their hands.
  • Once on the hands, the virus may be spread to the mouth and eyes through habitable touching of the face.

Unless the person is incredibly disciplined and never touches their face, at best, they will spread the virus beyond its current contamination. At worse, they will infect themselves and others.

This is where gloves come in. By wearing gloves in combination with other forms of PPE, a person may work in aircraft or passenger environments with a lower risk of the virus particles transferring to the skin. Once the crew member has left the infected environment, they can remove the gloves. Combined with hand washing, this should eliminate 99% of virus traces. It is vital to see gloves as disposable, as they are challenging to wash, and the wearer may accidentally infect themselves with the virus, if they are touching infected surfaces and then areas of their body that are not sanitised immediately.

“You should remove your gloves by pinching one from outside with one gloved hand and using your clean hand to reach inside the glove to remove the other one,” Dr Dean Winslow, an infectious diseases specialist at Stanford Health Care told Business Insider. “Even after you do that, with good technique, practice good hand hygiene.”

Are there different types of gloves?

It is important that airlines choose the right type of gloves for their workforce. Generally, there are two types of latex medical gloves, powdered and unpowdered.

  • Powdered gloves are lined with a fine powder that absorbs sweat and makes them easier to put on. They are more comfortable and don’t build up moisture inside. The cornstarch powder also prevents the fingers from sticking to one another.
  • Unpowdered or powder-free gloves don’t have any cornstarch, and maybe more comfortable for those who have allergic reactions. These gloves are also stronger and less likely to tear (something to consider when working with the coronavirus), more resistant to liquids and are better for the skin.

According to The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), it is recommended to use powder-free, reduced protein content latex gloves, in order to reduce exposure to natural latex proteins (and prevent allergic reactions).

Do airlines need gloves for cabin crew?

The Center for Disease Control in the United States does not recommend gloves for the general public; this is because they do not come in contact with COVID-19 regularly, or do not have the discipline not to touch their face while wearing the gloves.

However, they do suggest that gloves should be worn by those who are more likely to come into contact with carriers. While they list nurses and doctors as the most at-risk workers, we can’t ignore that cabin crew and other airport staff are equally on the front line.

“Wear disposable medical gloves when tending to a sick traveler or touching body fluids or potentially contaminated surfaces”CDC advice. 

Emirates was one of the first airlines to react. As stated in their May 21st press release this year, “Emirates has introduced complimentary hygiene kits to be given to every passenger upon check-in at Dubai International Airport and on flights to Dubai. These kits comprise of masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser… Gloves and masks are mandatory for all customers and employees at the airport in Dubai”.

Onboard the aircraft, many touchpoints are at risk of containing Coronavirus particles. This includes everything from seat rests, touchscreens, tray tables, bathrooms, bathroom doors, overhead bins, and especially the top of aircraft seats (passengers and crew touch them as they move through the cabin). Crew members need a safe and disposable way to interact with objects while flying, keeping themselves and their passengers safe.

“It’s primarily spread by droplets, so you’d need to be thinking about if someone is coughing or sneezing directly on you, or brushing up against something with droplets. Then you’d have to touch that part of the clothing and touch your face to get infected,” Dr. Sue Anne Bell, a nurse scientist, family nurse practitioner, and professor at the University of Michigan previously told Insider.

Airline and airport staff need to ensure that they wear gloves when working in the cabin, and then safely dispose of them when they leave the environment or swap them out with fresh PPE.

It is important to remember that wearing gloves is only one part of the Coronavirus prevention plan, and that it should be used in conjunction with facemasks, gowns, and face shields. Eways Aviation has access to an exclusive supply of aircraft-ready personal protection items and a robust network to deliver them around the world. If your team needs protection, then speak to Eways Aviation today.

You can get further information about our Non-Powdered Medical Gloves here, or the Powdered-Medical Gloves here.