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Helping Hands

Helping Hands

Helping Hands


Directorate of Assessments and Prevention
Workplace Safety Division
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are required to select, provide and enforce employee use of appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards. Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) selection for a job is important. However, PPE should not be used as a substitute for engineering, work practice and/or administrative controls. PPE should be used in conjunction with these controls to provide for Soldier/employee safety and health in the workplace. PPE is designed to create a barrier against workplace hazards and should only be used as a last defense against exposure.

Using any PPE requires hazard awareness and training on the part of the user. Soldiers/employees must be aware that the equipment does not eliminate the hazard. If the equipment fails, exposure will occur. To reduce the possibility of failure, equipment must be properly fitted and maintained in a clean and serviceable condition. OSHA Publication 3151-12R 2004 offers some valuable insight into the selection of PPE.

There are a wide variety of gloves available for protection against various hazardous situations, but not every glove will work in every situation. Supervisors need to determine what hand protection their Soldiers/employees need. The work activities of the Soldiers/employees should be studied to determine the degree of dexterity required, the duration, frequency, and degree of exposure to hazards and the physical stresses that will be applied. Factors that can influence the selection of protective gloves include the types of chemicals handled; the manner of contact with the chemical (immersion, splash, etc.); the length of time the gloves will be worn; the duration of contact with the hazard; the area requiring protection (hands only, hands and forearm, entire arm); grip requirements; thermal protection requirements; abrasion/resistance requirements; and comfort.

It is important to know the performance characteristics of gloves relative to the specific hazard anticipated. Before purchasing gloves, the supervisor should request documentation from the manufacturer that the gloves meet the appropriate test standard(s) for the hazard(s) anticipated. For example, protection against chemical hazards requires that the toxic properties of the chemical(s) be determined — particularly, the ability of the chemical(s) to pass through the skin and cause systemic effects and the breakthrough time of the gloves. The Soldier/employee should become familiar with the limitations of the gloves being used.

Different types of work gloves offer different types of hand protection. Rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach, there are certain gloves you’ll want to use for specific jobs. Listed below is a selection of glove types, but it is by no means all-inclusive.

Cotton and fabric gloves

These are the most common type of gloves. They are used for general work or projects where a high level of protection isn’t required. They are constructed of a thin, lightweight fabric covering that offers little safety to the user. They are mostly used to prevent minor scrapes or splinters and provide little to no protection against punctures, burns or cuts. These gloves can keep hands clean and protect against abrasions, but they may not be strong enough to handle work with rough or sharp materials.

Coated fabric gloves

A step above non-coated fabric gloves, these gloves provide slightly more protection against punctures, cuts and chemicals. They can be used in laboratory work provided they are strong enough to protect against the specific chemical being handled. Nitrile, PVC and polyurethane are common types of coatings, but the actual coating that is required depends on the job itself.

Leather gloves

Leather gloves provide good grip, insulation and durability. They’re thicker than regular fabric and offer a higher level of protection against punctures and cuts. Leather gloves tend to dry, crack or shrivel when excessively exposed to high temperatures. They’re not ideal for working with heat because of this reason, though they do offer adequate burn protection when in good condition. They are also capable of absorbing chemicals, holding the material in contact with the skin. These should be used when welding, as the leather can resist sparks and moderate heat. The risk of cuts and abrasions also can be minimized by wearing leather gloves.

Kevlar gloves

The durability of Kevlar gloves makes them an ideal choice for industrial applications. The material offers a lightweight yet robust solution to hand protection, allowing for movability yet remaining strong under duress. Kevlar is resistant to abrasions, cuts and punctures and is often used as a lining in other types of gloves.

Chemical-resistant/liquid-resistant gloves

Several types of gloves help protect against specific chemicals. It is prudent to use a glove manufacturer’s selection card/chart to ensure you are selecting the right glove for the right hazard:

  • Natural latex/rubber gloves. These gloves are most commonly used in food service, medical settings or laboratories. They’re usually form-fitting to allow for movability and offer protection from biohazards, chemicals, solvents and other harmful substances. They are not ideal when using sharp tools or flames or when working with abrasive surfaces. These gloves can dissolve in contact with grease, oil, diesel fuel or gasoline. They are ideal for water solutions or acids, alkalis, salts and ketones.
  • Neoprene gloves. These gloves are good for most hazardous chemicals. They are a poor choice for halogenated and aromatic hydrocarbons. They are a good choice for acids, bases, alcohols, fuels, peroxides, hydrocarbons, phenols, hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols and organic acids.
  • Nitrile rubber gloves. These are an excellent general-use glove and a viable alternative for individuals with latex allergies. They are good for solvents, oils, greases, chlorinated solvents and some acids and bases.
  • Butyl rubber gloves. These gloves are the best solution when working with most chemicals. Rubber doesn’t absorb liquids it comes into contact with and resists harmful chemicals like alcohols, ketones, nitro-compounds, acids, bases and even rocket fuel. They can withstand hot and cold temperatures, abrasion, oxidation and ozone corrosion as well. Butyl rubber is a poor choice when working with gasoline and aliphatic, aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons. They are ideal for working with nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid and peroxide.
Vibration-resistant/impact-resistant gloves

The impact of prolonged vibration is a major ergonomic concern. There are vibration-resistant gloves that can help to reduce the impact of extended vibration. These gloves help to absorb much of the impact of vibrating tools or equipment, transferring less energy to your hands. The effectiveness of these gloves varies by glove manufacturer as much as it does by material. They are most commonly used in the fabrication, automotive and construction industries where workers use vibrating tools for extended periods of time. Contact your industrial hygiene office to determine if they are required.

Aluminized gloves

Aluminized gloves are one of the best types of gloves to wear when working with heat. These gloves provide reflective and insulating protection and are recommended for welding, furnace and foundry work. They can protect your hands from temperatures of up to 2,000 F.

Electrical gloves

Electrical gloves are required when working with high- or low-voltage applications to protect workers from shock, burns, fires and explosions. These gloves are categorized by the level of voltage protection they provide and whether they are resistant to ozone. They are required to be tested periodically by an accredited laboratory and prior to being placed initially into service.


Gloves should be stored in a clean dry place. Reusable chemical resistant gloves should be stored flat, not folded, and washed prior to storage. Many reusable synthetic gloves can be laundered but must be air dried, not in the dryer. Gloves should be replaced when cracks, cuts, hardening or tears develop.

Providing gloves by themselves will not reduce the number of hand injuries in the workplace. They have to be used to be effective. Soldiers/workers must also be trained on the hazards the gloves protect the user from as well as the proper use of the gloves. By providing the proper gloves for the job, ensuring that workers are trained and enforcing PPE use policies, most hand injuries can be avoided.



  • 25 October 2020
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 732
  • Comments: 0
Categories: On-DutyWorkplace