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1910 138 Hand Protection

By Steve Stephenson

Examples of injuries to your employees' arms and hands are burns, cuts, electrical shocks, amputation, and absorption of chemicals. There are a wide assortment of gloves, hand pads, sleeves, and wristlets for protection from various hazardous situations.

Compliance with OSHA 1910.138 for hand protection begins with a workplace hazard assessment.  The goal is to eliminate hazards through engineering controls, or prevent access through guarding. A third option is to minimize the hazard through administrative (work practice) controls. PPE, such as hand protection, is required when hazards cannot be completely eliminated or guarded.

Potential hand hazards to look for during a hazard assessment include:

  • the potential for skin absorption of harmful substances
  • the potential for chemical or thermal burns
  • potential electrical dangers
  • situations that may cause bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures, and amputations

1910.138 Compliance - Types of Hand Protection

A wide range of gloves are available to protect against various types of hazards. The nature of the hazard and the type of work will determine which type of glove is needed. The variety of potential hazards can make selecting the right gloves challenging.

It is essential that the right gloves be used. Gloves designed to protect hands from one type of hazard, may not protect against a different hazard, even though the gloves appear to be appropriate. The following are examples of some of the factors that may influence the selection of protective gloves:

  • Type of hazard:
    • abrasion;
    • punctures, cuts, and slashes;
    • high or low temperatures;
    • chemical exposure;
    • electricity.
  • Type of work:
    • grip requirements (dry, wet, oily, etc.);
    • tactile requirements;
    • duration of contact with hazard;
    • the need to feed material into a machine;
    • area requiring protection (hand only, forearm, or a combination of hands and arms).
  • Type of material being handled:
    • liquid chemicals
      • the nature of the contact (total immersion, splash, etc.);
    • slippery solids;
    • high moisture materials;
    • biological materials.
  • Size, fit, and comfort.

Before purchasing gloves, the employer should request documentation from the manufacturer that gloves meet the appropriate test standard(s) for the hazard(s) anticipated. For example, for protection against chemical hazards, the toxic properties of the chemical(s) must be determined—particularly, the ability of the chemical(s) to pass through the skin and cause systemic effects.

Types of Glove Materials

Take a look at the glove rack in your local Home Depot. You'll see gloves made from a wide array of materials.  But, the gloves you see in Home Depot represent only a small part of the glove materials needed for industrial protection.  In general, industrial glove materials fall into four groups:

  1. Gloves made of leather, canvas or metal mesh;
  2. Fabric and coated fabric gloves;
  3. Chemical and liquid-resistant materials;
  4. Rubber gloves that provide electrical insulation (these are covered by OSHA 1910.137)

The following is a summary of the protection provided by common glove materials.

Leather, Canvas or Metal Mesh Gloves

  • Leather gloves – protect against cuts, burns (moderate heat), sparks, light blows, chips, and rough objects (abrasion).
  • Canvas gloves – provide protection against cuts, burns (moderate heat), and rough objects (abrasion).
  • Metal Mesh gloves – provide strong protection against abrasion, cuts, and punctures.
  • Aluminized gloves - insulating protection against heat. With inserts can protect against cold.
  • Aramid fiber gloves – insulating protection against heat and cold, cuts, and rough objects (abrasion).
  • Synthetic gloves (various materials) - protect against heat and cold, cuts, rough materials, and may withstand some diluted acids.

Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves

Fabric gloves typically do not provide protection against rough, sharp, or heavy materials.

  • Fabric gloves (typically cotton) - protect against dirt, slivers, chafing, and rough objects (abrasion).
  • Plastic coated fabric gloves – provide the same protection as fabric alone, and also provide slip resistance, abrasion protection, some chemical resistance, and additional strength.  When choosing gloves for protection against chemicals, always check the manufacturer's product information to determine if the gloves are effective against the specific chemicals and working conditions.

Chemical and Liquid-Resistant Gloves

Chemical-resistant gloves are made with various kinds of rubber or plastic such as: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile; fluorocarbon (viton); polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol; and polyethylene. In some gloves these materials may be blended or laminated.

For chemical-resistant gloves, a general rule of thumb is that, the thicker the glove material, the better the chemical resistance. However, this does not always mean increased safety. Thick gloves make it more difficult to handle objects and they reduce your dexterity. This has a negative impact on safety. The bottom line is that, getting the right glove for the job is important.

  • Butyl gloves (synthetic rubber) - protect against a wide variety of chemicals.
    • Chemicals include peroxide, highly corrosive acids (nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid and red-fuming nitric acid), strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters and nitro compounds.  Butyl gloves resist oxidation, ozone corrosion, and abrasion. They also have the advantage of being flexible at low temperatures.
    • Butyl gloves should not be used with aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, and halogenated solvents.
  • Latex gloves (natural rubber) – an excellent general purpose glove material that provides protection against abrasion, and most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones.
    • Latex gloves have caused allergic reactions in some individuals and may not be appropriate for all employees.
  • Neoprene gloves (synthetic rubber) – provides protection against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids, and alkalis.
    • Neoprene gloves typically have chemical and wear resistance properties that are superior to gloves made using natural rubber.
  • Nitrile gloves (a copolymer material) - provide protection from chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene.
    • They also protect against oils, greases, acids, caustics, and alcohols.
    • Nitrile gloves should not be used with strong oxidizing agents, aromatic solvents, ketones, or acetates.

Care of Protective Gloves

OSHA 1910.138 does not provide specific glove care requirements. However, if not used and cared for properly, gloves may not provide the needed protection.

Gloves should only be used for their intended applications. For example, using chemical resistant gloves to do a job that may result in a puncture can result in a leaky glove and exposure to dangerous chemicals.

All protective gloves should be inspected before they are used. Look for tears, punctures, discoloration, stiffness, or other damage. Always discard gloves that that appear to have any damage.

Chemical resistant gloves can be tested for punctures by filling them with water and tightly rolling the glove toward the fingers. This will reveal even small pinhole leaks. In addition, some gloves used with chemicals should not be reused because they may absorb the chemicals. Before re-using chemical-resistant gloves take into consideration the toxicity of the chemical, the duration of exposure, the temperature and other exposure conditions, and the manufacturer's recommendations.

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