Any workplace has its potential hazards, but hand and finger hazards are incredibly commonplace. Since hands are necessary for just about every workplace task, they are naturally exposed to more potential risks daily.
Chemical, biological, and physical risks vary heavily depending on the workplace environment, and it’s essential to know and wear the right gloves for the job. In some cases, you may need specialized workplace safety gloves to protect against serious hand injuries. However, in many cases, basic personal protective equipment (PPE) includes gloves to protect skin from irritation and basic contaminants.
Basics of Surgical Exam Gloves
The minimum type of glove that workplaces should have is surgical exam gloves. These are useful for everyday tasks like cleaning and first-aid, so every facility should keep some on hand regardless of industry.
Vinyl gloves are inappropriate for most safety-related uses, as they are not as strong as nitrile or latex and are not as flexible. However, due to their low cost, they may be an appropriate option for some art and food service fields where the risk of injury or illness is very low.
Nitrile and nitrile blend gloves are recommended for first aid kits. They are hypoallergenic and have a good blend of strength and flexibility. Latex gloves are even more flexible but do not hold up as well to some chemical contaminants.
Dealing With Chemicals
It’s important to remember that chemicals don’t just include laboratory equipment or barrels of acidic solution in factories. Everyday cleaning chemicals can cause discomfort or irritation, especially if used repeatedly in the same shift, so foodservice and janitorial workers should have access to basic disposable gloves as well.
Natural latex rubber gloves offer basic protection against chemical splashes and other short-term contact. Best practices mandate replacing the safety gloves after contact with chemicals since many can start to degrade the latex’s strength. However, many oil-based chemicals will degrade the latex faster.
Nitrile gloves are good for working with oils and solvents that can cause irritation to the skin. Pure nitrile gloves provide extended protection and do not usually need to be replaced immediately after contact with oil or other chemicals. Nitrile-vinyl blend gloves provide less chemical protection and should be replaced after splash contact but cost less.
Thicker rubber gloves may be necessary for highly acidic or corrosive compounds. Some fabric-lined gloves are designed for people with preexisting skin conditions like atopic dermatitis or psoriasis.
You can double-glove for additional protection, especially with latex or nitrile gloves. Depending on the exact materials used in thicker chemical-resistant gloves, it may even be more comfortable to wear a thinner second pair underneath. However, you will want to check with an industrial hygienist or another specialist for your industry before ensuring that doing so will not interfere with employees’ grip.
Cut and Heat Protection
OSHA regulations require the use of heavy-duty hand protection in many environments with power tools and sharp objects. Although some employees may prefer to supply and maintain their own safety gloves, the employer is required to make gloves available and ensure they have the correct level of cut resistance.
Kevlar gloves are made out of the same material as bulletproof vests, so they’re incredibly strong. They are rated for varying degrees of cut and puncture resistance but do not always offer high impact resistance. Leather gloves and abrasion-resistant gloves offer less protection from cuts and abrasions but are typically flame-retardant, making them suitable for occupations dealing with high heat, such as welders.
Like with other types of gloves, you may be able to layer thin nitrile or latex gloves underneath for additional comfort. However, cut- and heat-resistant gloves are so thick that adding another layer may impede movement.
Keep in mind that some gloves are also available as mitts that don’t separate the four longest fingers and only have the thumbs separate. These mitts sometimes offer a higher level of protection but have less versatility and range of motion.
Choosing the Right Size
It’s easy to keep multiple sizes of nitrile or latex disposable gloves on hand for employees. Some employees may need extra-small or extra-large sizes in addition to standard small, medium, and large sizes. Gloves that are the wrong size may make it harder for the employee to move their fingers or be loose enough to get caught on supplies and equipment, so keep a large assortment thoroughly stocked.
More specialized gloves may require special orders, especially if employees have unusually large or small hands. Always keep at least one specialized pair of gloves on hand in each size, so every employee has gloves that fit even if their current pair has a tear.
It may be tempting to use reusable gloves instead of disposable gloves, even when reusable gloves aren’t necessary. However, the maintenance and inspection needs of reusable gloves have their own cost.
Like all PPE, gloves should be checked for signs of aging and wear and tear, especially if they have rubber components. Since rubber tends to stiffen and even when it’s old, it can pose a significant safety hazard. Fabric-lined gloves or any gloves with seams should receive particular attention on the hems and seams.
Reusable gloves should be inspected before every use, even if they only receive light use. For disposable gloves, employees should give each pair a quick visual inspection once they’re on. Nitrile gloves tend to show holes and tears more readily than latex gloves, so latex gloves need extra attention, but both types should be ready to use right out of the box.
Partnering With the Right Supplier
No employee should ever have to avoid wearing gloves because of a shortage or missing the correct size. ICU Production is your source for surgical and exam gloves that serve a variety of industry needs.
We also have 3-ply, N95, and KN95 masks to protect your employees, guests, and sensitive equipment. Call our PPE hotline at 1-323-970-3819 to talk to our team about how our reliable distribution system can serve you.