Glove boxes

Glove boxes are often used in the pharmaceutical industry to control highly toxic “active” agents used in drug formulations. In principle they should provide a high degree of protection for the user. The contaminant is completely contained inside an extracted enclosure while the worker is outside. So when we’re carrying out a risk assessment and spot that the work is carried out inside a glove box we might assume that exposure will be well controlled. However, we have to be careful – sometimes the opposite is true.

positive pressure glove box

Looking at the above picture you can see that the gloves are sticking out of the enclosure. This is a good indication that the enclosure is under positive pressure. This means that contaminated air will leak out through any gaps or breaches in containment, potentially bringing contaminants out with it to which the operator will be exposed.

Such “positive pressure” booths are often used for quality considerations – to protect the product from contamination – and this is probably the case here.

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