When done right, a restaurant worker wearing gloves protects patrons from illness. And by done right, I mean they change gloves each and every time they switch from handling food to handling something else. 

But opponents of the new law in California mandating glove usage by restaurant workers say that the new law will decrease how much people actually wash their hands. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a foodservice worker brush their glove up against their nose, touch a dirty cash register, or open a refrigerator door with their gloves on.

In other words, will gloves just give people a false sense of security about the hygiene of their prepared food? Other complaints raised against the new law are the creation of more waste and an additional cost for restaurateurs.

Despite these concerns, every employee should wear gloves.  Even if local rules don't require it, having your workers wear gloves tells customers that you're looking out for them by running a clean restaurant.  This will win loyalty from customers, who are especially observant about the way their food is prepared.  

That said, gloves should be worn in conjunction with a proper hand hygiene program that includes how to wash and dry hands properly, how to select the proper gloves for the required task*, and how to properly dispose of gloves. In short, you need to create a culture of training, ongoing monitoring, and support.  

As my Dad used to tell my brother and I growing up, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” Just wearing gloves for the sake of appearance may, in fact, lead to harmful unintended consequences.

*The Right Glove for the Job

For making sandwiches, bagging bagels, garnishing plates, prepping pizza or tacos, wrapping silverware, filling ice buckets, setting up or breaking down display cases, or sampling food, economical poly gloves work well.

For handling sliced cheese, working the breakfast grill, cracking eggs, squeezing juices, prepping pies, pizzas, tacos, and meats, vinyl gloves are appropriate.

For tasks which require flexibility and dexterity, consider using synthetic gloves. Synthetics act and feels like latex without the potential for latex sensitivity.

For tasks requiring puncture resistance (i.e., handling shellfish, deboning meat, etc.) and a high level of dexterity, the best choice for protection is nitrile gloves. Nitrile gloves are also used for meat preparation, as they are resistant to breaking down when coming into contact with animal fats.

Written by Rob Brown