The Crime Scene InvestigatorA blog from the Crime Scene Investigator Network

Wearing gloves while processing a crime scene, Part I

Steven Staggs

January 28, 2016

It is common practice to wear gloves while processing a crime scene. But why, when and what type of gloves?

There are two primary reasons for wearing gloves. One is to protect us from the evidence. The other is to protect the evidence from us. In this post I will discuss the first reason—protection from the evidence.

When we are using gloves for our protection, we are attempting to protect ourselves from biohazardous substances such as blood, urine and semen. On December 6, 1991, OSHA issued Title 29, Section 1910.1030, of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Bloodborne. Occupations at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens include law enforcement, emergency response, and forensic laboratory personnel.

Fundamental to the bloodborne pathogens standard is the concept of following universal precautions. This concept is the primary mechanism for infection control. It requires that employees treat all blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials as if infected with bloodborne diseases, such as the hepatitis B virus (HBV), the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The following protective measures should be taken to avoid direct contact with potentially infectious materials:

  • Use barrier protection—such as disposable gloves, coveralls, and shoe covers—if contact with potentially infectious materials may occur. Change gloves when torn or punctured or when their ability to function as a barrier is compromised. Wear appropriate eye and face protection to protect against splashes, sprays, and spatters of potentially infectious materials.

  • Remove gloves and other personal protective equipment in a manner that will not result in contaminating unprotected skin or clothing.

  • Wash hands after removing gloves or other personal protective equipment.

  • Prohibit eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics where human blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials are present, regardless of personal protection that may be worn.

  • Place contaminated sharps in appropriate closable, leak-proof, puncture-resistant containers when transported or discarded. Label the containers with a BIOHAZARD warning label.

  • Do not bend, re-cap, remove, or otherwise handle contaminated needles or other sharps.

  • After use, decontaminate equipment with a daily prepared solution of household bleach diluted 1:10 or with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol or other appropriate disinfectant. Allow sufficient contact time for complete disinfection.

Regarding gloves, it is important to use relatively thick gloves and change them often. If your agency provides you with thin gloves you should double-glove for adequate protection.

In my next post I will discuss the second reason for wearing gloves in the crime scene—to protect the evidence from us.

Steven Staggs

Steve is a retired crime scene investigator, is the webmaster of the Crime Scene Investigator Network, a crime scene investigations instructor at a University in California, and the author of crime scene photography books and articles.