Hand Protection for the Workplace

Hand Protection For the Workplace

Why is Hand Protection needed in the workplace?
In the workplace, hands and fingers can get caught, jammed, pinched and even crushed in machinery. Sharp tools can lacerate, tear and jab the skin. Along with this, hands and fingers come in contact with many chemicals and solvents. Flammable liquids and acids cause burns and injuries.  All of these safety hazards make the need for good hand protection (safety gloves) absolutely necessary.

Who oversees that employee’s hands are protected on the job?

OSHA‘s standard for hand protection (1910.138) requires that employers select hand protection for their employees when their hands are exposed to hazards.   1910.138(a) General Requirements. “employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances, severe cuts or lacerations, severe abrasions, punctures, chemical burns, thermal burns, and harmful temperature extremes.”   1910.138(b) Selection. “Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.”

What factors have to be considered when choosing hand protections?

There are various types of hand protection (safety gloves) that are available for workers.  There are different materials that are used depending on the level of hazard that is present.  An important factor that needs to be considered in your choice of safety gloves is the amount of dexterity that is needed in order to perform a certain task or tasks on the job.  Certain materials offer a worker much more dexterity than others.  For example, a latex glove fits like a second skin.  It offers practically the same dexterity as working with bare hands but latex is not suitable for all safety applications. Your choice of gloves has to include a combination of the dexterity needed along with the hazards that are present in your work environment.  If there is the risk of exposure to chemicals, the gloves chosen have to be tested to protect against the chemicals that you are working with.

Does anyone test safety gloves to make sure that they will perform in specific situations?

There are measures that are used to test gloves that are used in work environments to protect the hands. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) offers hand protection criteria (ANSI/ISEA 105-2000) Gloves are tested for different qualities such as permeation and degradation.  These tests are performed by the manufacturer. 

Permeation Test
: The rate that a chemical passes through the material of the glove is measured with the permeation test.  The measurement is based on a scale of 0 to 6 with six being the highest level of protection.

Degradation Test
- The physical properties of a glove change when the glove comes in contact with a chemical.  A chemical could cause a glove to shrink, swell or crack. The degradation test measures these changes.  Chemical Degradation is based on a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 being the least amount of chemical degradation

If I choose chemical resistant gloves, will they protect me from all chemicals?

It is important to note that gloves might resist one chemical but not resist others or might not resist a combination of chemicals.  There is no glove that will resist ALL chemicals.  Be sure that you read the information from each manufacturer that you purchase your gloves from.  Each manufacturer has their own unique test data.

Is there any information that I can reference regarding the chemicals my hands are being exposed to?
When workers are working with chemicals it is a good idea to read the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).  These sheets will give you information on the different reactions that can occur from different chemicals.  For instance, some chemicals can cause a local reaction on the skin whereas other chemicals can be absorbed by the skin and enter the bloodstream. A manufacturer’s MSDS will give you all of this information.

What type of safety gloves offer my worker’s protection from cuts and lacerations?

Cut resistant gloves offer a worker protection from cuts and lacerations along with protection from the loss of fingers.  Cut resistant gloves come in a variety of strengths and cut resistance.  Some of these gloves can provide up to five times the strength of steel.

What is the best way to measure a hand for the best possible fit of a glove?

Measure the circumference of the hand around the palm at the knuckle area and for the length, measure from the very tip of the middle finger to the area on the forearm where the glove should end.   You will usually find chemical resistant gloves in lengths between 10 and 14 inches.  Some can be even longer in order to cover up over the elbow. 

How long do gloves usually last?

As with any kind of (PPE) personal protective equipment, gloves should be routinely inspected and replaced if there is any sign of damage.  Gloves are especially vulnerable if they are routinely exposed to chemicals. 

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