Hand Safety Begins with the Right Glove

There are a variety of gloves out there; make sure you have the right pair for your job.

By Alexandra Walsh

Protective gloves are the primary means of protecting your hands and arms when work controls fail to eliminate the risk of injury.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 70% of hand and arm injuries could have been prevented by proper use of gloves. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these injuries are expensive—the cost of the average hand injury workers’ compensation claim exceeded $6000 to $7000.

In a recent study published in an issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers described the type, location, and severity of hand injuries among 1166 patients.

The majority of subjects (83%) had a single type of injury: 63% were lacerations, 13% were crush injuries, 8% were avulsions (skin or tissue torn away), and 6% were punctures.

Metal items such as nails, metal stock, and burrs accounted for 38% of the injuries, followed by hand tools with blades (24%) and power machinery (12%). Hand tools with blades were least likely to result in multiple types of injuries, whereas powered machines or non-powered hand tools were more likely to result in multiple types of injuries.

Get Latest Safety Products in NGWA Bookstore
An assortment of products from the National Ground Water Association are available for you to consider so you can stay safe at the jobsite. They include videos on drilling and pump installation jobsites, a set of sheets with details so you can conduct weekly safety meetings, and a CD that provides a complete safety program manual for firms working in the groundwater industry. To learn more, visit the NGWA Bookstore at www.NGWA.org/Bookstore.

Hand and Arm Protection

So, with a wide variety of hazards and injuries that can occur, selecting the right glove can be a challenge. Both the hazard and the activity affect which glove to select. Technological advances in the hand protection industry have created a multitude of glove offerings designed specifically to protect against assorted hazards.

Today, suppliers have gloves specifically designed to protect against cuts, abrasions, punctures, burns, fractures, and chemical exposures. Your needs can inform the glove selection process.

  • What needs protection?
  • Hand only
  • Forearm
  • Arm
  • What are the grip and dexterity needs?
  • Is the work in dry, wet, or oily conditions?
  • Is fine dexterity needed?
  • Is chemical protection needed?
  • What type of chemicals are handled?
  • Nature of contact (total immersion, splash)
  • Duration of contact
  • Is other protection necessary?
  • Thermal
  • Electrical
  • Vibration
  • Cuts and punctures
  • Wear and abrasion resistance
  • What are the size and comfort requirements?

Types of Gloves

It is important employees use gloves specifically designed for the hazards and activities found on their job. Gloves designed for one activity or hazard may not adequately protect during a different activity or hazard. Fortunately, there are many types of gloves protecting against a variety of hazards.

Generally, gloves fall into four categories:

  • Durable work gloves made of metal mesh, leather, or canvas
  • Fabric and coated fabric gloves
  • Chemical and liquid resistant gloves
  • Insulating rubber gloves.

Metal mesh, leather, or canvas gloves

Sturdy gloves made from metal mesh, leather, or canvas provide protection from

cuts, burns, and sustained heat.

Leather gloves

  • Protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips, and rough objects.
  • Welders in particular need the durability of higher-quality leather gloves.

Aluminized gloves

  • Provide reflective and insulating protection against heat.
  • Used for welding, furnace, and foundry work.
  • Require an insert made of synthetic materials that protect against heat and cold.
  • Asbestos inserts are prohibited.

Aramid fiber gloves

  • Aramid is a synthetic material protecting against heat and cold.
  • Many glove manufacturers use aramid fiber to make gloves that are cut-resistant and abrasive-resistant.

Other synthetic materials

  • Several manufacturers make gloves with other synthetic fabrics that offer protection against heat and cold.
  • Resistant to cuts and abrasions and may withstand some diluted acids.
  • Don’t stand up well against alkalis and solvents.

Fabric and coated fabric gloves

Gloves made of cotton or other fabric protect against dirt, slivers, chafing, and abrasion, but don’t provide enough protection to be used with rough, sharp, or heavy materials.

  • Cotton flannel gloves coated with plastic transform fabric gloves into general-purpose hand protection offering slip-resistant qualities.
  • Coated fabric gloves are used for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire rope to handling chemical containers in laboratory operations.
  • For protection against chemical exposure hazards, always check with the manufacturer to determine the gloves’ effectiveness against the specific chemicals and conditions in the workplace.

Chemical and liquid-resistant gloves

  • Gloves made of rubber (latex, nitrile, or butyl), plastic, or synthetic rubber-like material such as neoprene protect workers from burns, irritation, and dermatitis caused by contact with oils, greases, solvents, and other chemicals.
  • Use of rubber gloves also reduces the risk of exposure to blood and other potentially infectious substances.
DACUM Codes
To help meet your professional needs, this column covers skills and competencies found in DACUM charts for drillers and pump installers. DO refers to the drilling chart and PI represents the pumps chart. The letter and number immediately following is the skill on the chart covered by the column. This column covers: DOK-7, DOK-8, DOK-9, DOK-10, DOL-2, DOL-3, PIB-2, PIG-3 More information on DACUM and the charts are available at www.NGWA.org/Certification and click on “Exam Information.”

Checklist for Training Employees

Employees must receive information and training to be made aware of the hazards present in their work, and to understand the correct use of personal protective equipment.

Train your employees to know:

  • Why hand and arm protection is necessary
  • Workplace hazards that threaten their hands and arms
  • How protective gloves and sleeves will protect them
  • Limitations of the protective equipment you have supplied
  • When they must wear the gloves and sleeves
  • How to properly put on the gloves and sleeves
  • How to ensure a comfortable and effective fit
  • How to identify signs of wear such as cracks, scrapes, or lacerations
  • Thinning or discoloration, and breakthrough to the skin.
OSHA Standard for Hand Protection
General requirements: Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.

Selection: The PPE standard for hand protection (29 CFR 1910.138) specifies the selection criteria to be used when providing hand protection. Unlike the other revised PPE standards for eye and face, head and foot protection, the hand protection regulation does not specify criteria for the actual equipment to be provided to employees.

The standard states:

Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the tasks to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.

As stated in paragraph 2 of Appendix B, Assessment and Selection:

It should be the responsibility of the safety officer to exercise common sense and appropriate expertise to accomplish these tasks.

OSHA says employers should use manufacturers’ data on the effectiveness of any given product, as well as employee feedback, in selecting hand protection.


Alexandra Walsh is the vice president of Association Vision, a Washington, D.C.–area communications company. She has extensive experience in management positions with a range of organizations.

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