Unfortunately, choosing the wrong
hand protection can be just as dangerous
as not wearing any at all. For example, a
lineman was recently killed after removing his rubber gloves and attempting to
work on a live transformer with only a
pair of cotton gloves. This incident demonstrates the importance of following
these simple steps when choosing personal protective equipment (PPE) for the
hands: Assess the workplace needs and
potential hazards, review the available
products and protections available, get the
right fit, train, inspect, maintain and care.
There is not one glove or PPE that
protects in all situations. Electrical workers might be familiar with safeguards
available against electrical hazards.
However, it is important to understand
that other hazards could be encountered
on any given job. Workers could suffer
abrasions, cuts or scrapes resulting from
rough or sharp edges. They may also
encounter puncture threats, moving
mechanical parts, open flames, hazardous temperatures, chemical compounds,
or viral and blood-borne pathogens.
There are gloves and other PPE to
mitigate injuries when working with
each of these hazards. Common materials for hand protection and protective
gloves include cotton, leather, vinyl,
nitrile, latex, PVC, neoprene, butyl, Viton,
Hypalon, Kevlar, Dyneema, Spectra, polyvinyl alcohol and others.
To assess a job site’s specific hand
hazards, it might be prudent to walk
around the site with a glove manufac-
turer or supplier to address specific
needs. PPE companies typically offer
this service for free. Manufacturer’s rep-
resentatives are trained to help potential
clients make the right choices.
This also provides an opportunity to
review the choices on the market. Manufacturers typically will come to the job
site with an array of available products
and samples to enable employees to try
them on. That experience, along with
some additional research, will help guide
proper PPE selection for a particular job.
As a side note, pricing should never
factor into the decision when trying
to choose and purchase PPE. In fact,
cheaper products often will not last as
long and end up costing the company
more money in the long run.
Although price does not factor into
choosing the appropriate PPE, getting
the right fit does. Just like there is not
one glove to offer protection in all situations, there is not a one-size-fits-all
solution either. Making sure that a glove
or hand protection fits properly is as easy
as grabbing a tape measure and measuring around the hand across the palm,
excluding the thumb.
In addition to procuring well-fitting
hand protection, training is a crucial
element to safeguarding workers. It is
imperative that all users and their super-
visors know when, where and how to use
the PPE and hand protection that their
company provides. This awareness may
also be helpful if and when further hand
protection is needed.
Even the most chemical-resistant or
highest electrically resistant gloves will
wear down over time. Different types of
gloves have different inspection, testing and maintenance requirements. For
example, electrically resistant rubber
gloves must be tested at a minimum
of every six months, and they must be
visually inspected prior to each use.
Therefore, it is important to train workers on the proper care, use and inspection
of their hand protection and PPE.
As a general rule of thumb, gloves
should typically be stored in a cool, dry
place away from direct sunlight. Also,
users should take proper care of PPE.
For example, some types of gloves can be
laundered, and others must be disposed
of after a single use. Reusable gloves
and PPE can become contaminated or
compromised as a result of an incident
and need to be discarded. Therefore, it
is important to establish contamination
procedures that include hand protec-tion. Using damaged or defective gloves
or PPE can result in serious injury or
even death. Any damaged or defective
hand protection or other PPE should be
removed from service immediately.
These safety tips can help prevent
hand injuries and guide purchase and use
of hand protection. If you have additional
questions, contact a PPE provider. There
are also a number of valuable resources
and training supplements pertaining to
hand protection and PPE available on
Rule of Thumb
One size does not fit all in hand protection
HAND INJURIES ACCOUNT for roughly one-third of all occupational injuries, one-quarter of all lost time at work and one-fifth of all disability claims. As a result, the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has some specific regulations and requirements regarding the use of hand protection in the construction
industry. Proper selection and use of hand protection and gloves can drastically
reduce the risk of such injuries.
O’CONNO R is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training
and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and
software for contractors. Reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. D R