Are you glove and skin aware?

 Denise McLaughlin 4 May 2018

RCN safety rep, Denise McLaughlin, explains why all nursing staff should be glove and skin aware.

The audience at the Hand in Glove event at Cowdray Hall

Last week, the RCN launched its updated Tools of the Trade guidance, which supports members to use gloves appropriately and to prevent their skin for hand dermatitis.

The launch coincided with Glove Awareness Week – the first week of its kind – and an event that I, as an RCN safety rep and member of the UK Health and Safety Committee, was delighted to support.

I have witnessed the impact of work-related dermatitis on many members. 

The condition often leads to members not being able to work in a clinical area because the cracked and weeping skin on their hands is an infection risk to patients and themselves.

Hand dermatitis is both debilitating and painful, and, at a time of severe nurse shortages, we cannot afford to lose experienced nurses to preventable conditions.

Nursing staff expose their hands to a cocktail of substances which can cause irritation or allergic reactions. Frequent handwashing, cleaning chemicals (both at work and at home) are known causes, but how often do we think of gloves as causing problems?

Gloved hands become sweaty, which can cause the skin to become soggy and damage the protective barrier. Some chemicals, known as accelerators, which are added to the lining of gloves to improve elasticity can cause reactions in some individuals too. 

As safety reps, we advocate for personal protective equipment, such as gloves, to be provided by employers to protect nurses from exposure to blood, bodily fluids and hazardous substances. 

However, the RCN’s ‘Hand in Glove’ masterclass which I attended this week opened my eyes to the potential damage that over or inappropriate use of gloves can cause.  The Tools of the Trade guidance provides much needed clarity on this issue.

Employers have a responsibility to prevent skin problems by coordinating a programme of skin checks. But, another of the key messages from the event was ‘moisturise, moisturise, moisturise’.  

Hand creams are an important way of preventing skin damage and I will take this message back to my workplace.

I urge all safety reps to review the Tools of the Trade guidance, use the Glove Awareness Week resources and see what you can do to make staff and patients glove and skin aware.  


Find out more about the Glove Awareness Week campaign:


Denise McLaughlin

Denise McLaughlin

Chair, RCN UK Safety Representatives Commitee


Denise McLaughlin is an RCN Safety Representative and Steward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

Denise is Chair of the RCN UK Safety Representatives Committee.

Page last updated - 27/05/2020