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?”
Quick Article Summary
- Know the requirements regarding glove type
- Leather, canvas, or metal mesh protect against cuts, burns, and sustained heat or cold
- Fabric and fabric-coated work better against abrasions
- Chemical and liquid resistant prevent chemical absorption and burns
- Insulating rubber protect against electrical conductivity and electrical burns
- Helpful features: knuckle pads, hook and loop wrists, gripping surfaces, washability
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
- Chemical burns
- Thermal burns
- Harmful temperature extremes
The broadness of the guideline follows the many different substances and dangers which exist on the jobsite. It suffices to say that the protection must be appropriate for the risk. You may find OSHA’s guide to PPE particularly helpful. Another helpful guide for sharp object protection is the updated 2016 ANSI cut resistance guide.
The Glove of Your Life
Hands can be endangered in many ways. The type, nature, duration, and temperature of the exposure matters. You can also look at immersion versus splash when it comes to liquid risks. Finally, the sharpness and ability for materials to puncture gloves play a role. 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
Leather, canvas, or metal mesh gloves can provide protection against cuts, burns, and sustained heat or cold. This includes leather, aluminized, aramid, and synthetic gloves.
2. Fabric and fabric-coated
Fabric and fabric-coated gloves protect against abrasions. Of these, fabric is the least protective and fabric-coated provides greater protection. These are general purpose work gloves.
3. Chemical and liquid resistant
Chemical and liquid resistant gloves provide 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
Insulating rubber gloves deliver 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.
You’ll rarely regret extra padding along the knuckles when the wrench slips or the fastener suddenly breaks loose.
Hook and loop wrists
For that extra bit of security, consider hook and loop closures (AKA Velcro) at the wrists.
Some gloves offer extra gripping performance with rubberized, non-slip material.
Washability of gloves should NOT be overlooked. 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!