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January 15, 2007
Gloves Go Hand In Hand with Safety

These handy helpers protect against hand hazards. If you've ever used the expression, "I've only got two hands," you can imagine what it would be like to only have the use of one--or neither--because of an injury. So hand safety on the job is serious business. And there are plenty of hand hazards out there to worry about, too. For example, your employees could be exposed to:

  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Puncture wounds
  • Heat and chemical burns
  • Hazardous substances that can irritate or be absorbed by the skin
  • Extreme heat or cold
  • Biological agents like bacteria and viruses

Even a minor hand injury can get infected and lead to lost workdays, medical expenses, and more serious health problems.

Why It Matters...
  • Hand injuries are a common workplace safety issue--not surprising since so much work is done with the hands.
  • You need to be able to select the gloves that will best protect against every hand hazard in your workplace.
  • The wrong glove won't provide the right protection.

The best way to prevent all that and protect your employees against hand hazards is one simple strategy--provide employees with the right gloves for the job.

Here's what you need to think about when selecting gloves. In addition to identifying actual or potential hand hazards, you also need to think about such things as:

  • How employees use their hands when they perform specific tasks
  • How often and how long they perform those tasks
  • How much manual dexterity is required for each task
  • How great the risk of exposure is for each hand hazard
  • How to ensure a good fit (because a glove that doesn't fit right won't protect correctly and may even create new hazards)

Considerations like these will help you determine the right kind of glove for each job that requires hand protection.

Then all you have to do is match the glove to the hazards and conditions. For example, you might require employees to wear:

  • Cotton gloves to keep hands clean, improve grip, insulate from mild heat or cold, and provide some protection from cuts, scrapes.
  • Leather gloves to protect against rough surfaces, sharp edges, and objects that can cut or puncture skin, and sparks and heat that can cause burns.
  • Rubber gloves to protect hands from strong cleaning products and moisture, as well as to provide insulation when working with electricity.
  • Disposable gloves for protection against mild skin irritants as well as bacteria and viruses.
  • Chemical-resistant gloves (e.g., nitrile, neoprene, rubber, polyvinyl) to protect hands against hazardous chemicals (when the hazard is chemical, be sure to consult the MSDS for recommendations about glove selection).
  • Temperature-resistant gloves to protect against extreme heat or cold.
  • Metal mesh gloves to protect against cuts and amputations when sharp instruments or objects are being handled.
  • Shock-absorbing gloves to protect against repetitive motion stress and vibration.
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