Potential hazards to hands and arms include skin absorption of chemical or biological hazards, chemical or thermal burns, electric shock, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures or amputations.  Protective equipment includes gloves, finger guards and arm coverings.

Selection must be based on the performance characteristics of the glove in relation to the tasks to be performed. Suppliers and manufacturers may provide compliance guidelines or references for food and pharmaceutical applications.

Hand And Arm Hazards

  • Abrasion
  • Amputations
  • Cuts
  • Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Biological
  • Chemicals (Dry or Liquid)
  • Chemical Burns (Acid or Base)
  • Electrical Shock
  • Extreme Temperatures
  • Fractures
  • Laceration
  • Heat and Cold
  • Thermal Burns
  • Radiation
  • Vibration and Grip

General Requirements

Hand and arm protection must be selected and used when personnel may be exposed to certain hazards, such as:

  • Working with harmful substances, dry or liquid, that can be absorbed through the skin, or that can cause skin irritation, chemical burns, or similar conditions. Examples would include strong acids/bases, toxic or corrosive materials, organic solvents, and radioactive materials.
  • Working with tools, equipment, or materials that can cause cuts, lacerations, punctures, fractures, amputations, or abrasions.
  • Work where the employee is exposed to materials or agents that can cause thermal burns or that expose the employee to harmful temperatures.
  • Work that may expose employees to blood or other potentially infectious agents.
  • Work on live electrical systems or components. Additional training is required for the use of electrical protective equipment

Types of Hand & Arm Protection (env-health-occ-safety@ncsu.edu)

There are several categories of gloves.  See Hand Protection Reference Guide

  • Disposable gloves – Best for one-time use situations. Provides wearer minimal protection against materials, or protects the material from the handler. Available in a variety of materials and for a variety of tasks. Disposable gloves are typically very thin and provide improved sensitivity and dexterity. However, they may tear or puncture easily and are less chemical resistant than standard chemical resistant gloves. Avoid using disposable gloves for processes involving intentional direct chemical contact.
  • Critical-environment gloves – Used in applications that require extreme cleanliness, such as in the electronic, nuclear, and pharmaceutical industries
  • Chemical-resistant gloves – Protects against specific chemicals and liquids. Also usually thick enough to minimally protect against abrasion, cuts, punctures, and snags. Generally, any “chemical-resistant” glove can be used for dry powders. (See additional information provided later in this section.)  (See Chemical Glove Resistant) (env-health-lab-safety@ncsu.edu)
  • General-purpose gloves – Intended to help reduce hand injuries from snags, punctures, abrasions, and cuts.
  • Coated gloves – Nitrile and natural rubber coated gloves are often used as substitutes for leather gloves. Coated gloves offer superior hand protection from wet environments where dexterity is important. However, coated gloves provide minimal protection from physical hazards such as cuts, abrasions or punctures
  • Cut-resistant gloves – Available in a wide variety of materials, including metal-mesh, Kevlar®, and aluminized and other cut resistant materials
    • Protects against cuts and scrapes caused by knives and other sharp tools and equipment.
    • Cut resistant gloves are rated according to the level of force required to cut the material.
  • Puncture-resistant gloves – Available in a wide variety of materials. Puncture-resistant gloves protect against most sharp objects, including glass, metal, and needle sticks. No glove is completely puncture-proof. Puncture resistant gloves are rated according to the level of force required to puncture the material.
  • Anti-vibration/impact gloves – Protection from vibration or impact from tools and equipment. Helps prevent hand, finger, and arm fatigue.
  • Leather gloves – Qualities of leather include comfort, durability, dexterity, mild heat resistance, and abrasion resistance. Good all-purpose glove.
  • Temperature-resistant gloves – Provides protection from high or from low temperatures.  Leather, Kevlar®, cotton, terrycloth, cryogenic gloves, rubber, Nomex®, Zetex®, and Flextra® are some common materials used in this type of glove. Welding gloves are considered temperature resistant.
    • Select gloves based on the type of heat or cold source (fire, radiant heat, hot or cold object, hot or cold liquids, etc.
    • Some temperature resistant gloves may protect against hot or cold objects but not against hot or cold gases or liquids.
  • Electrical – Voltage-rated gloves provided protection against shock hazards. (env-health-occ-safety@ncsu.edu)

Glove Selection

  • The best place to start when selecting gloves for a task is to compare the exposure hazards to the protective qualities of the gloves available from your supplier.
  • Many tasks will involve multiple hazards, and the glove selected should either protect against all of the hazards, or more than one type of glove may have to be worn. A common example of this is when leather gloves (cut/puncture/abrasion resistant) are worn over voltage-rated rubber gloves. Certain chemical and/or radiation hazards may require double gloving (of the same type).
  • Before purchasing gloves, review the work activities to determine the degree of dexterity required, the duration, frequency, and degree of exposure to the hazard, and the physical stresses that will be applied.
  • There are several factors to consider when selecting a glove, such as size, the type of cuff, lining, and length.

Sizing

Gloves come in sizes ranging from small to XX-large. It is important to provide a selection of sizes to employees so that a proper fit is obtained. Gloves that are too small will cause fatigue and gloves that are too large may create dexterity issues or entanglement hazards. Improperly sized gloves may affect the protective qualities.

Cuff Type

  • Pinked cuff – A zigzag finished appearance commonly found on knit-lined rubber gloves.
  • Rolled cuff – Gives additional cuff strength and a finished appearance. Acts as a barrier to keep chemicals from running off the glove and  onto the skin.
  • Straight cuff – Provides a snug fit to protect from chemical runoff and skin contact.
  • Gauntlet cuff – Extended length protects the wrist area. Slides on and off easily. Allows for maximum movement of the forearm.

Lining Type

  • Unlined – Gives better sensitivity and dexterity than lined gloves. Required where particle contamination is a concern. Powdered unlined gloves make donning on/off easier and can increase comfort, but may be an irritant, or a sensitizer, to some individual users.
  • Flock-lined – Shredded fiber, usually cotton, applied to the inside surface of the glove material. Absorbs perspiration. Easy to take on and off.
  • Knit-lined – Cotton or synthetic material bonded to the inside surface of a glove. Absorbs perspiration, adds some temperature protection.
  • Jersey-lined – Softest, most comfortable lining. Gives additional temperature protection and greater cushioning effect.

Length

  • Finger cots – worn on the fingers alone when minimal or no protection is required.
  • 9 – 12 inches provides complete hand protection.
  • 12 – 18 inches  provides hand, forearm to elbow protection for immersion or extra splash protection.
  • 24 – 31 inches provides full arm immersion protection.

Chemical Resistant Gloves Selection

Chemical-resistant glove selection begins with an evaluation of the type of work to be performed and the chemical(s) that personnel will be contacting. No glove provides protection against all potential chemical hazards, and available gloves may provide only limited protection against many chemicals. It is important, therefore, to select the most appropriate glove for a particular application and to determine how long it can be worn and whether it can be reused.

Chemical-resistant gloves should be inspected prior to use for discoloration, punctures, cracks, or tears. Consider the following issues:

  • The type of chemical(s) to be handled or used.  Glove selection guidance is provided for some chemicals by the following manufacturers.
  • The toxic properties of the chemical(s) – in particular, chemicals that can cause local effects on the skin and/or pass through the skin and cause systemic effects, may warrant a higher level of protection.
  • The frequency and duration of the task for chemical contact. Different chemicals will affect the protective qualities of a glove in different ways.
    • Breakthrough time: the time it takes for the chemical to pass to the inside of the glove. This is a characteristic of the glove material. Some glove materials are not recommended for certain chemicals. Some materials indicate a time limit before chemical breakthrough of the glove material was detected. Some materials do not have a detectable chemical breakthrough (under laboratory test conditions). Follow manufacturer guidelines or supplier “Chemical Compatibility Guides” for additional information.
    • Permeation: if a chemical will pass through a glove material.
    • Degradation: how the chemical will affect the physical properties of the glove material upon contact. Degradation can lead to softening, drying, swelling, shrinkage, increased brittleness, or other undesirable side effects that could allow permeation or breakthrough inside the glove.
      • The ability of the chemical to penetrate through the glove must be determined.
      • Latex or natural rubber does not hold up well to organic solvents, oils, greases, or fuels such as kerosene or gasoline.
      • Nitrile is ideal for stripping and degreasing, chemical washing, and is resistant to animal fats and vegetable oils. Nitrile does not contain latex that causes skin allergies.
      • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) provides excellent resistance to most acids, fats, and petroleum hydrocarbons.
      • Neoprene is strong and durable and provides excellent chemical resistance. Note: Check “Chemical Compatibility Guides” for specific chemical and glove materials recommended.
      • Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) has an extremely high resistance to aliphatics, aromatics, chlorinated solvents, esters, and ketones. PVA quickly breaks down when exposed to water and light alcohols.
      • Butyl provides excellent chemical resistance to gases and ketones. It is ideal for handling hazardous materials. Butyl is severely affected by fuels and aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbon solvents.
      • Viton is the most resistant of all, and provides high-temperature, fuel-resistance. Recommended for working with extremely hazardous chemicals, such as carcinogenic or highly toxic chemicals.
      • Silver-shield provides excellent chemical resistance and is commonly used for hazardous materials work, or work involving multiple chemical hazards.
      • Mixtures and formulated products (unless specific test data is available) require that gloves should be selected based on the chemical component with the shortest breakthrough time since it’s possible for solvents to carry active ingredients through some glove materials.
  • Personnel must be trained on safe ways to remove gloves to prevent contamination.
  • Determine if the task will involve splash hazards, and ensure that adequate protection is used.
  • Consider the concentration of the chemical(s).
  • Consider the temperature of the chemical(s).
  • Consider abrasion, cut, puncture, tear-resistance, and grip requirements.
  • For work involving chemicals where there is a skin absorption hazard, double gloving of the appropriate type may be necessary.
  • Gloves, whether lined or unlined, can confine perspiration and high humidity inside the gloves, leading to skin irritation and dermatitis. Dry the hands thoroughly between use of gloves.

Storage And Care

  • Discard any defective or damage PPE
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding cleaning, storage, and care.