Importance of Using Shoe Covers

Petri dish with bacteriaHave you ever considered what is on the bottom of your shoes?  Besides things you can see, such as grease, oil, gum, mud, leaves, feces, etc., there are the countless things you cannot see, like germs, bacteria, mold, and viruses.  All of these things walk with us everywhere we go, from the house to the car to the parking lot to the building to the lab or production area to the bathroom to the dining area and back again.  How many other places do we go, like gas stations and public parks, picking up things on our shoes all along the way and transporting them where they are unwelcome?

As a result, many industries and settings require the use of shoe covers to maintain sanitary or sterile conditions, prevent contamination, limit the spread of infections, comply with health codes, etc.  A review of the literature turned up several key findings such as the following:

“In this study, the authors subjected six occupied rodent holding rooms in their animal research facility to three conditions: use of disinfectant mats; use of shoe covers; and no disinfectant mats or shoe covers. The authors took bacterial culture samples from the rooms under each condition. There was no significant difference in the mean number of colony forming units (CFUs) cultured when the disinfectant mats or shoe covers were used. However, the mean number of CFUs obtained was significantly lower when either disinfectant mats or shoe covers were used than when neither was used. These results suggest that using disinfectant mats or disposable shoe covers may reduce the bacterial load on rodent holding room floors.”[1]

“We recommend that gloves and footwear worn by employees who handle RF-RTE foods or who work in areas where RF-RTE are processed or exposed be made of impermeable material, in good repair, easily cleanable or disposable (emphasis added), and used only in RF-RTE areas.”[2]

“Health care workers who handle hazardous drugs are at risk of skin rashes, cancer and reproductive disorders. NIOSH recommends that employers provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers who handle hazardous drugs in the workplace…Use hair and shoe covers constructed of coated materials to reduce the possibility of particulate or microbial contamination in clean rooms and other sensitive areas.”[3]

Based on the above, it is clear that using disposable shoe covers is a credible and recommended method in a variety of situations and controlled environments.

[1] Allen KP, Csida T, Leming J, Murray K, Thulin J. Efficacy of Footwear Disinfection and Shoe Cover Use in an Animal Research Facility, U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20305633

[2] US Food and Drug Administration, Guidance for Industry: Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Refrigerated or Frozen Ready-To-Eat Foods, Section XI, Paragraph IV

[3] Personal Protective Equipment for Health Care Workers Who Work with Hazardous Drugs, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2009-106/pdfs/2009-106.pdf

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