Introduction

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a general duty upon employers to keep employees and others (including patients) healthy and safe at work.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 asks employers to undertake an assessment of any substances used at work that are hazardous to health. Natural rubber latex is hazardous to health.

Latex is a commonly used material in a variety of products and equipment used in hospitals and at home. Latex has many benefits as it offers a high degree of sensitivity, strength and dexterity which is needed in healthcare. It also provides an effective barrier against infection. However, to protect patients and staff who are sensitised to latex, latex products will only be used within the Trust where a suitable alternative is not available.

As natural rubber latex is a potential asthmagen, health surveillance of staff who come into contact with latex is required. The extent and detail of the health surveillance should be related to the degree of risk identified during the COSHH Risk Assessment and determined in consultation with an occupational health professional.

 

The principle health risks associated with natural rubber latex are:

  • Non-allergic dermatitis / irritation is caused by frequent hand-washing combined with soaps, detergents, occlusion by gloves and glove powder. It is a chemical irritation, not an allergy, and manifests itself as dry, crusty skin with bumps and horizontal cracks. A rash may occur on the backs of the hands, which is characteristically dry and itchy. It is usually reversible. But hand eczema and dermatitis are important risk factors for latex allergy as proteins can penetrate a broken epidermis more easily.
  • Contact dermatitis (Type IV cell-mediated hypersensitivity) is due to sensitisation to proteins not removed or absorbed into gloves during manufacture. Lanolin and oils in cheap hand creams can also be allergens themselves or act as carriers. Eczema is seen under the area of glove contact and sometimes extends up the forearm. However this condition can mimic a non-allergic response and a referral to a dermatologist may be needed to diagnose this condition. It is a delayed reaction, appearing hours or even days after contact with the allergen but then subsiding.
  • Latex allergy (Type 1 immediate response hypersensitivity) is an immediate reaction, which can vary from local urticaria to systemic effects such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis, facial swelling, respiratory distress, asthma and anaphylaxis. It usually diminishes rapidly once contact with the rubber material has ceased.

 

Policy Details

Download: PDF version
Compiled by: Non Clinical Risk Manager
Ratified by: Health and Safety Committee
Date Ratified: June 2017
Date Issued: May 2018
Review Date: June 2019
Target Audience: All staff
Contact name: Ann Birler, Consultant Nurse, Infection Prevention and Control
Nadine Williams, Occupational Health Manager

 

See also:

  • Health and Safety Policy
  • Management and Use of Medical Devices Policy
  • COSHH Policy
  • Personal Protective Equipment Policy
  • Policy for the Reporting and Management of Incidents
  • Risk Assessment Policy
  • Glove Policy
  • Hand Hygiene Policy for Healthcare Workers