OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

April 7, 1998

Ms. Jennifer Sabas
Chief of Staff
Prince Kuhio Federal Building
Room 7325
300 Ala Moana Boulevard
Honolulu, HI 96850-4975

Dear Ms. Sabas:

Thank you for your letter of November 20, 1997, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations requiring the use latex gloves by food service workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have any regulations requiring the use of latex gloves during the preparation and serving of food. OSHA's regulations are designed to prevent injury to employees. Wearing gloves during preparation of uncooked foods is part of FDA's Food Code; the purpose of which is "to safeguard public health and to provide to consumers food that is safe, unadulterated and honestly presented."

OSHA is currently considering a recommendation that employees not wear latex gloves except for protection in situations with exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. Recent reports in the scientific literature indicate that about 10% of regularly exposed workers are sensitized to latex. Reported symptoms have usually been skin rashes or inflammation, but other symptoms have included respiratory irritation, asthma and, in rare cases, shock. A NIOSH Alert has already been published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health earlier this year. This alert had several recommendations including the use of nonlatex gloves for activities that are not likely to involve contact with infectious materials and choosing low-protein, powderless latex gloves when latex is chosen for handling infectious materials. OSHA agrees with these and several other recommendations and has included them in a hazard information bulletin which has been drafted by our Office of Occupational Medicine. This draft bulletin was sent to stakeholders, and comments are now under review and consideration. Publication of the final document should be later this year.

I hope this clarifies OSHA's current position on latex gloves. If you have any further questions, you can contact our Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.


Charles N. Jeffress
Assistant Secretary