How to choose the right gloves

It is important to wear gloves when a job requires it but gloves are not just gloves. There are many different types so it is a matter of making the right choice. The result of not using the right gloves could be eczema, which presents as hard, reddened skin, blistering and possibly itching.

The recommendation is to limit contact between the skin and chemicals as much as possible. If you do get a chemical on the skin, it should be rapidly rinsed and washed off. Choose the least dangerous chemicals, use working methods and technical aids and equipment to reduce contact.

Also be aware that contact with skin elsewhere than on the hands can mean eczema for example from oily clothes rubbing against the skin on the front of the thighs or forearms. Good hygiene, frequently changing work clothing and washing oil off are all important. Safety data sheets should state if users need to protect the skin elsewhere than on the hands. This might involve for example an apron, boots or full protective chemical suit.


Work gloves

Work gloves protect against mechanical hazards such as abrasion, cuts, vibration, heat and cold, depending on the type. They are usually knitted or made of leather/hide or cotton. Work gloves do not normally provide protection against chemicals. There are work gloves that have an outer coating of rubber or plastic but nevertheless they do not give sufficient protection.

When you need protection against chemicals and in work that is very hard on the hands, it may be necessary to wear working gloves outside chemical gloves. 


Using gloves

Gloves must fit (there are often different sizes) and be clean, undamaged and dry. So it is important to be able to hang them up to dry if they are suitable for repeated use.


Chemical protection gloves

Chemical gloves are available in many different materials, the most usual being latex-rubber, nitrile rubber and PVC. More expensive gloves are available made of butyl rubber, viton and PVA. The material used is very important for the chemical protection they provide. PVA gloves can also be used for many organic solvents but they have a weakness – they do not tolerate water.

The problem with composite products containing several different substances is that even small amounts of something that can penetrate a particular glove material can act to channel other substances through the glove. This also applies to substances that a glove might otherwise provide good protection against.

In the safety data sheet, you can see the types of glove recommended by manufacturers for individual chemicals.

Suppliers often only state: “Use suitable protectivegloves when working” so you may need to get advice from your glove supplier.


Break-through time

Break-through or penetration time is calculated from the moment that the glove is in contact with the chemical. Many chemicals tend to continue seeping through the glove even after you may have stopped using the chemical. Break-through time is normally based on measurements at 23°C but breakthrough times can be reduced at higher temperatures due to body heat, hot liquids and possibly as the material of the gloves stretches. So for some jobs, disposable gloves are required.

Exterior paints often contain the solvent xylene. Only PVA gloves are suitable for use with xylene (toluene and benzene). Nitrile gloves can be used for oil products. Neoprene, viton and PVC gloves are also recommended for certain oil products. Do not use barrier cream under or instead of gloves.

Depending on their inner lining, chemical gloves can be unpleasant or cold to wear. It helps to use a cotton inner glove. Cotton gloves also help soak up sweat and prevent the hands from getting softened.