What Work Gloves Do I Need? A Pro’s Guide
Even though our hands are critical to our jobs, some of us neglect to protect them properly. Unlike exposure injuries like respirable crystalline silica to the lungs, injuries to the hands are immediately apparent. That’s because the hands are home to some of the body’s most dense clusters of nerve endings. These nerve endings allow the hand to perform remarkable tasks like reading braille. They are also the reason hand injuries are so painful – many neural pathways ring the alarm bell when there’s pain. Although we’ve reviewed gloves, we’ve never discussed how to choose the right kind. So here’s our handy guide to answer the questions, “What work gloves do I need?”
Although some state-level regulations exist, OSHA only specifies that employers provide hand protection from “skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.” The guideline is broad because there are many different substances and ways that hands are endangered in the world of work and it suffices to say that the protection must be appropriate for the risk. You may find OSHA’s guide to PPE is particularly helpful. Another helpful guide for sharp object protection is the updated 2016 ANSI cut resistance guide.
Glove of Your Life
Hands can be endangered by type, nature, duration, temperature, immersion versus splash, sharpness, and more. OSHA categorizes gloves into four groups: 1) leather, canvas, or metal mesh; 2) fabric and fabric-coated; 3) chemical and liquid resistant, and 4) insulating rubber. Let’s dig in.
1. Leather, canvas, or metal mesh – for protection against cuts, burns, and sustained heat or cold. This includes leather, aluminized, aramid, and synthetic gloves.
2. Fabric and fabric-coated – for protections against abrasions with the fabric being least protective and fabric-coated being more so. These are general purpose work gloves.
3. Chemical and liquid resistant – for protection against absorption and chemical burns. This category includes butyl, natural/latex, neoprene, and nitrile. Be sure to refer to a chemical resistance chart to be sure the glove type is appropriate for the chemical.
4. Insulating rubber – for protection against electrical conductivity and electrical burns. Be sure the glove is rated for the level of current.
So What Work Gloves Do I Need?
Here are some more considerations before you make your choice.
1. Knuckle padding – you’ll rarely regret extra padding along the knuckles when the wrench slips or the fastener suddenly breaks loose.
2. Hook and loop wrists – for that extra bit of security, consider hook and loop closures (AKA Velcro) at the wrists.
3. Gripping surface – Some gloves offer extra gripping performance with rubberized, non-slip material.
4. Washability – Getting a whiff of well-worn gloves can be pretty unpleasant – be sure the glove are easy to clean in a way that doesn’t compromise performance.
Whatever glove you choose, be sure you are over-protected from what you normally encounter on the job first, and then be sure it provides a high degree of comfort and dexterity. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to count your blessings at the end of the day. We hope this has helped you answer, “What work gloves do I need?” If you’re a Pro and you have glove tips, add them in the comments below or give us a shout on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!