Work gloves are essential for protecting our hands, as well as being a tool for helping us to be more efficient. Whether you’re working on site, in the laboratory, cleaning the toilets, handling food, or any other task where your hands are vulnerable, you will need to wear suitable hand protection.
Your hands are exposed, and this can cause anything from mild dryness to cuts and blows. Safety gloves can provide protection from temperature extremes and general use. And they can prevent reactions caused by handling chemicals and the adverse effects of submerging hands in liquids.
Suitable for the home and workplace, you should first identify the correct measures you should take. Firstly, reduce the need to come into contact with potentially harmful objects, materials or liquids.
You should then wear protective gloves where avoiding contact is impractical or doesn’t offer enough protection.
Choosing The Right Work Gloves
Unfortunately, no glove is going to offer all-around protection. This is because the design, material and thickness differs, with each type offering a different level of protection.
And no gloves are going to provide protection forever.
Essentially, this means that while disposable gloves are appropriate in one scenario, in another you will need something more substantial. As a result, there are different standards which you must conform to, and different terms to look out for when choosing work gloves.
Breakthrough time indicates how long it takes a chemical to soak through the glove material and therefore fill the glove.
Permeation rate specifies how much moves through the glove, and whether it would fill slowly or quickly.
Degradation is how the glove begins to deteriorate when in contact with specific materials.
These all give an indication for how long the gloves are safe to wear, and signposts how often you’re going to need to replace the gloves.
Work Glove Standards
Of course, this depends on the environment and hazards individuals are likely to encounter. This then determines the standard you must conform to, and therefore a minimum specification for each glove. A detailed risk assessment is advised and will give specific guidance.
When you have prolonged or frequent contact with water, particularly soaps and detergents, you’ll need EN 374-2 work gloves. Waterproof and suitable for wet work, these will prevent the effects of regular water contact.
For more hazardous substances and chemicals, your gloves will need to conform to EN 374-3 for adequate protection. Pay particular attention to the handling instructions of specific harmful substances for any exact requirements.
General use protective gloves can save you from abrasions, blade cuts, tears and punctures, conforming to standard EN 388. And with levels of performance between zero and four, they’re easily identified, with four giving ultimate protection.
Gloves for use to provide a defence against thermal hazards will conform to EN 407, giving protection against heat and fire. However, for firefighter levels of protection from heat and flames, the standard is EN 659.
For protection against conductive and contact cold, then it’s standard EN 511, and for ionising radiation radioactive contamination, then standard EN 421 sets the minimum criteria.
Medical gloves are required to be single-use gloves which you dispose of after carrying out each task. This prevents cross-contamination and prevents contact with your skin. For this, you require standard EN 455.
For gloves which are suitable for food handling and preparation areas, then you must ensure the disposable gloves you choose either carry the words ‘for food use’, or display the recognised symbol.
Are Your Work Gloves Suitable For Use?
The gloves you end up choosing obviously need to protect the wearer from the hazards which are present. But don’t forget, they also need to be suitable for the wearer and not hinder the task they’re expected to carry out whilst wearing them.
Therefore, the type of work carried out whilst wearing work gloves influences the decision just as much as the standards.
When handling objects which are wet and oily, choosing gloves which have a rough or textured surface enhance the grip levels, making work more efficient. Or, if you’re likely to submerge your hands in water, you’ll want longer gauntlets which prevent splashes and water flooding into the glove from above.
You should consider whether the gloves are being worn for long periods or whether gloves are going to be taken off regularly.
Thicker and robust gloves give greater protection, while thinner gloves offer better dexterity. And the gloves also need to fit. If they are tight, your hands will quickly feel tired and lose their grip, whilst gloves which are too large impair work.
But, perhaps most obviously, you and your workers are more likely to wear gloves which are comfortable. And when they’re worn, they can actually provide the right protection.