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When you’re working with your hands they are vulnerable to damage, which can range from dryness to cuts, blows, temperature extremes, and reactions from handling chemicals. The best and most effective way of preventing skin problems and injuries in the workplace is to ensure you’re wearing suitable gloves to provide hand protection.

With every hazard, you should first take measures to prevent the need for potentially harmful contact in the workplace. Gloves should then be used where avoiding contact is impractical or doesn’t actually offer enough protection.

The choice of gloves depends on the environment, the work they’re used for the wearer and the hazard you’re protecting against.

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  • Choosing The Right Gloves

    No glove will protect against all substances which is why they differ in design, material and thickness. And no glove will protect against a specific threat forever.

    So where disposable gloves are appropriate in one scenario, in another you’re likely to need something much more substantial.

    When you’re required to have prolonged or frequent contact with water, particularly with soaps and detergents, this is classed as ‘Wet work’.

    For this, you’ll need waterproof gloves which conform to standard EN 374-2 to prevent effect of regular contact with water.

    For protecting your hands against substances and chemicals, you will need gloves which conform to standard EN 374-3. However, you will need to pay particular attention to the material for specific protection from specific substances and used in line with the handling instructions.

  • There are three key terms to watch out for:-

    1. Breakthrough time (how long it takes a chemical to permeate through the glove material,

    2. Permeation rate (how much moves through the glove),

    3. Degradation (how it deteriorates when in contact with specific materials).

    Protective gloves will save you from abrasions, blade cuts, tears and punctures, and its level of performance is identified with numbers 1 to 4, in line with standard EN 388.

    Gloves for thermal hazards must conform to EN 407, for protection against heat and fire, while EN 659 defines the performance requirements for gloves designed to protect firefighters against heat and flames.

    For protection against conductive and contact cold, then the standard you need is EN 511, and EN 421 lays down the criteria for use with ionising radiation and radioactive contamination.

    When you’re looking to use gloves in food handling, then it must carry the words ‘for food use’, or display the recognised symbol.

    Medical gloves are required to be single-use disposable gloves and need to conform to standard EN 455.

  • Suitable For Use?

    Not only do the gloves you select need to be suitable for the material they’re coming into contact with and the hazards they’re protecting you from, but you also need them to not hinder the task at hand. Therefore, the type of work being carried influences the decision just as much.

    When handling wet or oily objects, you want to choose gloves with a rough or textured surface to enhance grip. Or if you’re likely to completely submerge your hand, you’ll want longer gloves than if you’re just looking to protect from splashes. And will the gloves be worn for long periods or intermittently?

    Generally, thicker and robust gloves offer greater protection than thinner gloves which give better dexterity.

    It’s also important to ensure the gloves fit. If it is tight fitting, your hands will feel tired and lose their grip, while gloves which are too large will impair work.

    Plus, when they’re comfortable, they’re more likely to be worn in the first place so they can do their job.