A study of workers compensation claims related to latex glove use

Irwin B. Horwitz and Richard D. Arvey

While many past research endeavors have attempted to examine latex allergy by assessing healthcare worker sensitization rates, little research has focused on actual allergic reactions experienced by these workers. Using 10 years of workers' compensation data from Minnesota from 1988-1997, the study assessed the incidents of allergic reaction in healthcare workers from latex glove use as well as related factors, such as severity and costs.

The results found the average annual claim rate to be 7.1 claims per 100,000 employed healthcare workers. The majority of claims (52.2%) required no indemnity payment for time taken off work, and, for those claims in which indemnity costs were reported, most (76.8%) took less than a month off work. There were no cases of permanent disability found for the entire period examined. The average cost per healthcare worker employed in Minnesota was $0.295 annually and thus was 300 times less than the break-even point of tertiary care facilities switching to all latex-free glove alternatives as estimated by a previous study sponsored by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).