While the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is standard at all correctional facilities, selecting the correct PPE for each task can be crucial to keeping staff safe, while still enabling them to complete tasks efficiently.

Choosing the ideal protective gloves for each application can be a balancing act. Gloves that are thicker may be more cut-resistant, but they can also make manipulating objects more challenging as well as limiting tactile sensitivity. 

In general, nitrile gloves are the best choice for most corrections officers. These gloves are durable and comfortable, which makes them a versatile option. Many correctional facilities prefer black nitrile gloves, such as these 6 mil gloves, due to their professional look and high performance. The black color also hides dirt and stains, allowing correctional officers to maintain a clean appearance.

Nitrile gloves are powder free, range in thickness from 4-6 mils, and are available in both industrial and exam grades. Industrial grade gloves are appropriate for tasks that do not involve the presence of bodily fluids, especially blood-borne pathogens. Exam grade options, on the other hand, offer the best possible protection during routine health checks. They also come with extended cuff options, designed specifically for emergency situations.

Most facilities avoid latex gloves, as they are not suitable for those with latex allergies or sensitivities. They also often opt to color-coordinate gloves based on staff location within the facility in order to avoid cross-contamination. For example, prison complexes may use different glove colors in food service areas than in areas where the officers interact with prisoners.

Low-Risk Situations

Those who process inmates should utilize standard nitrile gloves during the interviewing and screening process. Those who are doing light cleaning or similar activities in the facility, whether staff or inmates, can opt for thinner nitrile gloves.

Those who are on kitchen duty can use a combination of nitrile and vinyl gloves. Cut resistance of the gloves should be proportional to the risk of the task. For example, kitchen staff who primarily debone meat, cut vegetables, or slice proteins should opt for higher cut resistance. In addition to protective gloves, kitchen staff should also use aprons and hairnets (as well as beard restraints, when applicable) to cover all hair on the head and face. Hair restraints should ideally be light in color, since their increased visibility (in most hair colors) makes monitoring compliance easier.

High-Risk Situations

Staff working in other areas of a correctional facility will need to take even more care with choosing the proper protective equipment. Gloves that are specialized for correctional officers, called correctional gloves, are durable and robust, while also allowing for tactile sensitivity. This combination provides staff with the protection that they need in order to complete both routine and emergency tasks, ensuring that officers can perform their duties confidently and safely.

For example, officers who perform housing unit searches or cell inspections must use fentanyl-rated nitrile gloves in order to avoid the risk associated with exposure to skin contact with fentanyl. In general, officers should avoid running their hands and fingers into areas that they cannot see, as inmates tend to hide sharp objects and hazardous materials in these areas. If doing so is unavoidable, officers should use gloves with a high level of cut resistance.

Officers who deal directly with infected inmates or violent prisoners will need to pay special attention to their choice of PPE. Warding off infections requires the use of disposable nitrile gloves that are a minimum of 4 mils in thickness, and protection from violent encounters necessitates the use of puncture-resistant gloves, as well as tactical gear.

All staff members in a correctional facility should be educated and knowledgeable about the differences in various forms of PPE. Using gloves and other protective equipment effectively is essential in assisting correctional officers to perform their tasks well and safely.

Written by Robert Brown