Protection and grip - but not during the operation of heavy machinery
Employers need to ascertain which kind of work glove is the right one for a specific task, to ensure that the hands and arms of workers are protected from hazards.
However, it should be noted up front that work gloves are the one piece of personal protective equipment that should not be worn during the operation of machinery, since gloves can get caught in the moving parts of a machine.
The first step in deciding which type of work gloves to order is to figure out which hazards may be present in your workplace.
OSHA divides work gloves into four categories:
- leather, canvas or metal mesh gloves
- fabric and coated fabric gloves
- chemical and liquid-resistant gloves
- insulating rubber gloves.
Leather, canvas or mettle mesh work gloves
Leather work gloves, as well as canvas or mettle mesh gloves, are suitable for heat, cold and impact / penetration hazards that result in cuts, abrasions, burns and frostbite. This category of work gloves includes aluminized gloves, aramid fiber gloves and synthetic gloves.
The market has a wide selection of leather welding gloves, for which goatskin leather is favored since it is durable, yet thin and pliable.
Fabric and coated fabric work gloves
Fabric gloves provide a more basic form of hand protection from dirt, chafing and abrasions; however, they won't protect you from rough, sharp or heavy objects.
For added protection and slip-resistance for better handling, fabric gloves can be coated with plastic, but still are used only as a general-purpose work glove.
Chemical and liquid-resistant work gloves
As a general rule, the thicker the work glove, the better the protection against chemical hazards.
Before reusing any safety gloves that have been exposed to chemicals, check the chemical's toxicity. They will need to be thoroughly cleaned, or you may need to discard the gloves after each use.
To protect against the spread of contamination - particularly as worn by healthcare workers - and from exposure to harmful chemicals, general-purpose latex gloves have been worn for decades, only recently falling out of favor since they've been recognized as an allergen for many latex glove wearers.
To get around the allergenic aspect of latex, nitrile gloves have proven to be a suitable alternative. As well, nitrile gloves are superior to latex gloves when it comes to handling oils, greases and some chemicals.
Insulating rubber work gloves for electrical work
Insulating rubber gloves should be worn whenever electrical hazards are a risk.
North Carolina State University provides a hand protection reference guide that outlines the type of gloves needed for various hazards.
As part of routine maintenance, work gloves of any variety need to be inspected before each use for holes, tears or any other damage that could make them vulnerable.