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Ansell calls for EU-wide accreditation scheme for safety professionals

Ansell : 08 March, 2007  (New Product)
Ansell Healthcare has welcomed the European Commission's recently announced strategy to reduce occupational accidents and diseases in the European Union by 25 percent by 2012.
Ansell Healthcare, a producer of both medical and industrial gloves, claims that huge improvements in worker accident rates can be achieved simply by investing in hand protection adapted to the tasks and risks specific to each workstation. The company would like to see the set-up of an EU-wide accreditation scheme for safety professionals and manufacturers which is recognised across the industry.

According to Eurostat- European Statistics on Accidents at Work (ESAW), the ‘upper extremities’ are the parts of the body most injured, accounting for 43.2 percent of all non-fatal accidents at work. 'We frequently audit large multinationals in which seven out of 10 gloves provided to workers do not offer the optimal protection against the risks they are exposed to,' explained Werner Heintz, senior vice-president and regional director Europe for Ansell Healthcare. 'There is room for a great deal of worker safety improvements in the European Union's manufacturing plants.'

'Personal protective equipment is designed to improve worker safety. What many companies, and in particular SMEs, may not realise is that selecting comfortable gloves with the correct grip and appropriate mechanical and chemical protection can significantly enhance worker performance,' added Werner Heintz. 'That's why gloves should be seen not only as personal protection but as a tool to enhance productivity.'

European Commissioner Spidla stated that: 'the most frequent reasons for absence from work are musculoskeletal problems'. Born of repetitive hand/wrist exertions, and exacerbated by the use of force as a risk factor, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the second-most prevalent musculoskeletal disorder after sprains and strains.

Ansell Healthcare - in collaboration with the University of Birmingham - developed Ansell Grip Technology to reduce the necessity for exertion, provide greater object control, safety and productivity, and contribute to preventing the onset of occupational injuries such as CTS. Gloves with this coating require from 34 to 69 percent less grip force to lift an oily object. Grip Technology is one example of how Ansell responds to the market's needs with targeted solutions for risks of cuts, chemical exposure, extreme temperatures and poor grip.

The European Commission's Communication stated that health care is still a particularly dangerous sector for workers. Many healthcare workers are continuously exposed to blood borne viruses and to dangerous substances.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about three million healthcare workers worldwide receive percutaneous exposures to bloodborne pathogens each year, including hepatitis and HIV. Concerned by the high rate of preventable infection amongst medical personnel, Ansell has launched a campaign to promote the use of double gloving for surgical procedures, where glove punctures occur at rates of 11 to 43 percent (Ref 1). Double gloving reduces by a factor of 10 the number of potential exposures. (Ref 2)

Accurate indication of how long gloves remain resistant to penetration by viruses and chemicals results in safer guidelines for healthcare workers. Ansell Healthcare goes beyond the standard ASTM 1671 test method with the Ansell Viral Protection Programme.

The same dynamic test methodology is used to measure permeation times for cytostatic chemicals. Exposure to cytostatic drugs is known to cause irreversible damage, including hormonal dysfunction, miscarriages and congenital malformations among children born to healthcare professionals. Ansell published a glove selection tool containing usage guidelines on its website and distributed it to key healthcare facilities.

A survey of UK NHS staff showed that 43 percent had signs or symptoms of irritant dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis, and 10 percent showed latex hypersensitivity (Ref 3). Ansell has pioneered in developing HydraSoft technology. This hydrating coating for medical gloves contains moisturising agents specifically selected to help maintain the skin's natural barrier function and to help prevent the onset of contact dermatitis.

The company's AnsellCares programme provides free-of charge awareness campaigns and training tools to help healthcare professionals identify and prevent occupational diseases and infection transmission issues in order to provide a safer environment for the healthcare professional and the patient alike.

Manufacturers have always played a pivotal role in the creation and revision of standards on personal protective equipment. As a member of the main safety industry federations' associations within Europe (BSIF in the UK, Febelsafe in Belgium, Synamap in France, BVH in Germany and Asepal in Spain), Ansell Healthcare is concerned that safety products should be carefully and knowledgably selected and used by organisations.

Along with other companies dispensing advice and audits, the company also wants to encourage the implementation of an accreditation scheme for safety professionals, which is recognised across the industry. This would provide customers with the best advice and supply information in respect of safety products and services. Ansell Healthcare would like to see such a scheme promoted at a European level.

Ref 1 - Cole R, Gault DT. Glove perforation during plastic surgery. British Journal of Plastic Surgery. 1989;42:481-483.
Ref 2 - Preventing Disease in the operating roo. Panel discussion. American College of Surgeons Spring Meeting. April 29, 1998.
Ref 3 - Johnson G, Time to take the gloves off?, Occupational Health (London), 1997; 49: 25-28

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