What types of gloves protect your hands from hazardous chemicals?

Q:

What types of gloves protect your hands from hazardous chemicals?

A:

Check a safety data sheet and you might see a tip like “Wear impermeable gloves.” There are a couple of key issues with this type of generic safety recommendation:

  1. No glove can remain chemical-resistant forever
  2. No one glove material is resistant to all chemicals

There are a wide variety of glove materials available, and choosing the right one for your specific application is the only way to truly protect your hands from harmful substances (get all the protection you need by learning The Top 4 Pathways for Chemical Exposure). To find the right glove, begin by conducting an assessment to determine your needs, considering the following factors:

  • Tasks being completed
  • Hazards that require hand protection: tears, abrasion, punctures, temperature, fire, etc.
  • Flexibility, grip, and touch sensitivity needed for the tasks
  • Length of contact

Chemicals are usually broken down into classes, and safety experts note that gloves that perform well against one type of chemical in a particular class often hold up well against the rest of the chemicals in that class as well. Of course, be mindful that there is always an exception to the rule.

Once you’ve figured out what you need and the type of chemicals you’ll be working with, here is a handy overview to help you determine which gloves might work best for you (protect your workers from unnecessary exposure with Top Tips for Preventing Chemical Spills in the Workplace).

Material

Benefits

Limitations

Common Applications

Latex

  • Inexpensive and widely available
  • Good strength and dexterity
  • Minimal (to no) chemical resistance
  • Could cause skin reaction
  • Food processing
  • Aircraft assembly
  • Automotive

Nitrile

  • Moderate price; less expensive than other types of gloves
  • Good chemical resistance, including gasoline, kerosene, and other petroleum solvents
  • Not recommended for use with ketones, strong oxidizing acids, and organic chemicals containing nitrogen
  • Poor flame resistance
  • Medical industry
  • General around-the-plant work
  • Automotive assembly
  • Painting environments

Neoprene

  • Excellent chemical resistance to acids, alcohols, oils, and inks
  • Superior protection against acids, bases, and many organic chemicals
  • Performs well in situations requiring good sensitivity and grip
  • Not recommended for use with inorganic oxidizing agents like concentrated nitric or chromic acids

PVC (vinyl)

  • Inexpensive
  • Durable with good snag and cut resistance
  • Resist aging
  • Better chemical resistance than other polymers to diluted oxidizing agents such as nitric, chromic, hydrochloric, and phosphoric acids
  • Not recommended for use with acetones, ketones, ether, and aromatic or chlorinated solvents
  • Petrochemical industry
  • Light industrial usage

PVA

  • Excellent for aromatics and chlorinated chemicals
  • Dissolve in water (including on humid days)
  • Chemical and life sciences industries
  • Cleaning furnaces
  • Maintaining lab equipment
  • Transferring liquids and solids between vessels/tanks and process equipment
  • Unexpected leakages or spills

Butyl

  • Low permeability with gases
  • Great for gases like chlorine gas or hydrogen cyanide
  • Also good for applications involving methyl ethyl ketone, acetone, or similar cleaning agents
  • Expensive material means gloves are more expensive than other options
  • Agriculture
  • Pesticides
  • Oil/gas
  • Salons
  • Emergency response
  • Forensics
  • Chemical mixing
  • Medical research
  • Laboratories
  • Automotive

Viton

  • Often known as the “last resort polymer” due to its price and because it works where many other gloves don’t
  • Extreme resistance to chemicals and heat
  • Good for aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene, toluene, and xylene
  • Very expensive
  • Aerospace industry
  • Applications requiring aggressive chemical resistance


Conclusion

As you can see, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which gloves are best for chemical protection. By understanding your specific hazards and the requirements of the job, you can select the type of glove that is best for you.

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Written by Brad Rosen
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Brad joined Broner Glove & Safety in 2009 as Purchasing Manager. He is primarily responsible for sourcing, inventory and product management in addition to roles in operations, sales and marketing. Brad has enjoyed helping Broner Make a Difference in their customer’s safety programs by finding the most effective solutions for their needs and implementing total cost of ownership programs.


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