Unlike the fashion industry where wearing the right pair of gloves only spells the difference between looking trendy or looking passé, putting on the appropriate pair of work gloves for doing particular types of labor are necessary to avoid putting oneself in a dangerous situation.
There are basically three types of danger that work gloves protect their users from: extreme temperatures (such as when melting metals or moving frozen meat), sharp or cutting objects (such as when opening oysters or handling small pets that bite), and toxic or hazardous chemicals and biological hazards (such as when handling blood samples in a hospital or disposing of toxic wastes).
Furthermore, different types of work gloves provide varying degrees of protection from the hazards that these gloves were made to protect their users from. Gloves that protect against incidental contact are sufficient for protecting their users from accidental spills, splashes, or overspray. Also classified under incidental contact is contamination of materials, such as laboratory samples, during handling. On the other hand, there are work gloves that protect against extended contact with highly dangerous materials such as when one’s work involves submerging one’s hands in a hazardous substance, or prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures and/or sharp, cutting objects.
Work gloves are made from various types of materials, and each type of material has various advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and the protection that it provides, among other factors for consideration.
Latex or natural rubber gloves are inexpensive work gloves that provide incidental contact protection from water-based and biological materials such as alcohols and bases. However, they provide very little protection from hazardous chemicals and don’t provide protection from organic solvents. Another downside to them is that they tend to puncture easily, and these punctures, when they occur, are not easily detectible. It is also important to note that latex gloves may trigger or cause allergies to latex.
Nitrile gloves, which are generally inexpensive, come in two varieties: a disposable one that protects against incidental contact, and a thicker, reusable one that protects against extended contact. Both varieties are great for general use as they provide protection from oils, solvents, greases, and some bases and acids. Furthermore, nitrile gloves offer a good alternative for users who are allergic to latex, and unlike latex or natural rubber gloves, tears and breaks in nitrile gloves are easily detectible.
Butyl rubber gloves, while they’re expensive, provide extended contact protection from esters and ketones. However, they don’t provide good protection for hydrocarbons, including the aromatic, aliphatic, and halogenated types.
Neoprene gloves are mid-priced work gloves that provide extended protection from bases, acids, alcohols, peroxides, fuels, phenols, and hydrocarbons. Moreover, they provide effective protection from most types of hazardous chemicals. However, neoprene gloves don’t provide good protection from aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons.
Norfoil gloves are mid-priced gloves that provide extended protection from most types of hazardous chemicals. The downside to using them, though, is that they’re usually a poor fit on hands, causing restricted precision in movements. However, putting a heavier nitrile glove over the norfoil glove will allow for improved precision in one’s movements.
Fluoro-elastomer gloves, which are often called by their most popular brand name, Viton, are very expensive, but they provide extended protection from aromatic and chlorinated solvents. Furthermore, they also provide adequate resistance to prevent abrasions and cuts, but don’t provide good protection from ketones.
Polyvinyl chloride gloves (PVC gloves) are generally inexpensive and provide protection from bases, acids, fats, oils, animes, and peroxides. They also provide adequate resistance to prevent abrasions. However, they don’t provide good protection from most types of organic solvents.
Polyvinyl alcohol gloves (PVA Gloves) are very expensive but provide protection from chlorinated and aromatic solvents. They don’t provide good protection for water-based solutions, though.
Kevlar, leather, and stainless steel gloves are mid-priced work gloves that provide varying degrees of resistance to prevent abrasions and cuts. In addition, they usually come with detachable sleeves to provide protection to forearms and wrists. Their downside is that they don’t provide protection from hazardous materials; however, other gloves may be worn over Kevlar, leather, and stainless steel gloves to provide protection from both hazardous materials and materials that cause abrasions and cuts.
Cryogenic resistant gloves and some types of leather gloves are generally very expensive but provide protection from frostbite. However, these types of gloves cannot be dipped directly into liquid nitrogen.
Nomex gloves, which are also very expensive, provide protection from pyrophoric materials, materials that may spontaneously ignite upon coming into contact with air. They are best worn with nitrile gloves underneath to provide additional protection.
Using or providing the right type of work gloves can spell the difference between safe working environments and suffering dire consequences. Thus, while some work gloves are expensive, they are made to provide specific types of protection. Therefore, if a particular type of gloves is the one prescribed to protect from particular types of danger, cutting back on costs by providing a cheaper but less effective type of glove isn’t an option. After all, safety is nonnegotiable, and the same holds true for choosing the right type of work gloves for each particular use.