Let’s start this article by stating a few obvious points about welding gloves:
- One size does not fit all
- Task match the gloves to the work
- You absolutely have to use your hazard analysis to comply with legislation
Here's another obvious one: welding gloves can only protect you while they're on your hands.
And although that's so evident it's barely worth mentioning, the fact ist hat the most common reason for burns, abrasions, and cuts to welders' fingers and hands is taking off the gloves to do a hazardous task.
The best welding gloves, then, are the ones you can leave on and, more importantly, that the user wants to keep on.
In this article, we'll go over some of the other things you need to consider when selecting and purchasing welding gloves for your workplace.
Know When to Replace Your Welding Gloves
Welding gloves don't last forever. They will need to be replaced according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
If they're damaged, get cut, have holes, or are abraded to the point where their integrity is compromised, replace them immediately.
After all, your welding glove can protect you against electrical hazards, but only if there are no holes in it.
Make Sure Contractors Are Safe
If you are hiring contract welders, include a clause in their contract that specifically references PPE and when your company expects them to be using PPE.
Follow up with line safety inspections to evaluate actual performance and verify that they are complying with your stipulations.
Welding Gloves Must Be Up to the Task
Welding gloves are available in a number of designs, styles, and materials. Per legislation and standards, the gloves you use must be tested and certified to provide protection from heat, electrical energy and shocks, cuts, impact, abrasion, puncture, and environmental issues like ultraviolet radiation.
Welding is hazardous work, and the gloves must protect not only the hands but also the wrist. Be sure to consider the forearms as well. If welders use a machine over a 50% duty cycle and beads are in excess of five feet, manufacturers recommend adding heat-resistant materials to protect forearms, worn either under or over the welding jacket.
Your initial hazard analysis will also need to consider the type of welding that is being done – tack, long weld, or both. You’ll also factor in the welding machine or method being used – stick, MIG, TIG, or two of these methods. The type of welding done will determine what types of gloves are appropriate for the task.
Also consider the work environment. There is a significant difference between working indoor in a climate-controlled facility and working outside welding beams on a 400-foot building.
(For related reading, see 12 Types of Hand Protection Gloves - And How to Choose the Right One.)
Assess the Heat
Your choice of welding glove will be based in part on the heat involved. Manufacturers and distributors can make your selection process simple, but you need to give them the specifics about the work involved.
For example, when stick welding, consider the following:
- Welding over 90 amps: the glove should have Kevlar thread
- 125 amps or more: the glove should have some cotton insulation
- 250 amps or more: the glove should have cotton and foam insulation
- Over 500 amps: the glove should have a backhand pad or a reflective material on the back of the hand
What Welding Gloves Are Made Of
Great welding gloves use materials like Kevlar™ thread for stitching.
Leather is a great material for welding gloves, but consider the grade and cut of the leather (e.g. gloves made from select shoulder grade with re-enforcement in the thumb crotch area). For MIG and TIG welding, consider top grain cowhide, pig skin leather, or goat skin leather.
Inner glove materials can matter, too. If the work is being done during a snow storm or in a high-humidity atmosphere, an inner glove made of wool or cotton (or a combination cotton and foam lining) may be needed.
Make Sure You Have the Right Fit
I can't stress enough how important it is to make sure the gloves are the perfect fit.
When welding, I've used gloves that were so awkward, bulky, and stiff that getting the bead right was a matter of luck, not skill. Don't let that happen to you. Be aware that gloves that don't fit might provide the same degree of protection on paper, but in reality they can introduce additional hazards for the user.
You have to try them on before using them. Flex your hand, fingers, and wrists and note how they feel and how they move. The best gloves will allow for greater range of motion.
Select for Comfort
Welding is called hot work for a reason. Welding gloves need to protect the user not only from the heat of the actual welding process but also from the work itself.
Always consider the time frame of exposure to heat. Is the welder tacking or running long beads, and why?
I once had to weld a base plate for the trailer hitch on a trailer carrying a railway flat car. It required a bead almost 14 feet long, around the plate’s perimeter. I was instructed to do five passes. It got hot. Really hot. Easy to burn your hands, and as your hands got sweaty you could actually get a steam burn inside the glove.
Thankfully, I was using a glove that had a great absorbent lining, which wicked the moisture from my hands. And yes, I changed my gloves often during the task.
Get the Right Design Features
Welding gloves are multi-functional PPE because welding is multi-functional work. Welding involves many tasks besides the actual welding time. To meet the demands of those tasks, gloves need to have a good non-slip grip and a reinforced flexible palm to use the chipping hammer and grinder safely.
These gloves are used for rough, heavy work as well as fine finger work. Great gloves will allow you to do both without having to remove them. Turning the adjustment screw on a small set of vise grips or putting a lightweight welding rod into a stinger takes some real dexterity, and your gloves should be able to accommodate that.
Welding gloves are also used as work rests, to steady and support the stinger, so they should have some firmness to the material along the pinky side and the back of the hand, or have actual built-in or sewn-in pads or ridges.
Remember that there are right and left-handed people in the world, so glove supports and pads have to be available in right or left, or designed for use by either hand.
Follow the Manufacturer's Care Instructions
Welding gloves need to be cleaned properly so that they don't lose any of their protective properties. Your manufacturer or supplier can provide you with details on the appropriate way to clean, care for, and maintain your gloves.
It takes a team effort to select the right PPE, from the welder through the safety pro to the designer and manufacturer. Together, you should be able to get gloves that are matched to the task and are a good fit for the user.
For more Hand and Arm Protection content, check out our Hand and Arm Protection Knowledge Center.