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