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Guide to hand protection

Protecting against substances in the

The most effective and reliable way to prevent skin problems is to
design and operate processes to avoid contact with harmful
substances. Protective gloves tend to be less effective than other
control measures but if avoiding contact is impractical or is not
enough to protect employees then gloves may be needed. When
you select protective gloves, base your choice on the work, the
wearer and the environment they work in. You need to consider
the following five factors:
Identify the substances handled.
Identify all other hazards.
Consider the type and duration of contact.
Consider the user - size and comfort.
Consider the task.

Identify the substances handled

Gloves differ in design, material and thickness. No glove material
will protect against all substances and no gloves will protect
against a specific substance forever.
Water/wet work
Prolonged or frequent contact with water, particularly

in combination with soaps and detergents, can cause
dermatitis. Wet work is the term used to describe

tasks in the workplace that can cause this.
To protect the hands from wet work choose a glove

that meets the European Standard EN374-2. This
shows that the gloves are waterproof.
Substances in products, created by work processes and
natural substances

Substances in products. Some products contain

substances that can harm the skin or enter the body
through skin contact. The product label or material
safety data sheet should tell you if this is the case.
These may also give information on what protective
gloves to use. If this is missing then try contacting the
product supplier or manufacturer for help.
Substances created by work processes and
natural substances. Not all harmful substances
come in labelled containers. Substances can be
generated during work activities (eg wood dust from
sanding, solder fumes). Remember that handling some
natural substances like foods and flowers can cause
skin problems too. If you are unsure if a substance
produced by a work process or a natural substance you
are handling is harmful, seek additional information,


To protect hands from

substances/chemicals choose a
glove that meets the European
Standard EN374-3. But make
sure the glove material you
choose protects against the
substances being handled.
Glove manufacturers usually produce charts to show
how well their gloves perform against different
substances. Manufacturers use three key terms,
breakthrough time, permeation rate and degradation:

Breakthrough time is the time a chemical

takes to permeate through the glove material and
reach the inside. Permeation is a process by which a
chemical can pass through a material without going
through pinholes or pores or other visible openings.
This tells you how long you can use a glove for.

The permeation rate is the amount that then

permeates through. The higher the rate the more of
the chemical will move through the glove. Choose a
low rate.

Some chemicals can destroy the glove material. It

may get harder, softer or may swell. Degradation
indicates the deterioration of the glove material on
contact with a specific chemical. Choose gloves with
an excellent or good degradation rating.

You can use manufacturers charts to identify the best

gloves for the chemicals being handled or contact
Anderco to help with this step.
The performance of glove materials can vary slightly
from manufacturer to manufacturer, so base your
selection on the correct manufacturers data.
Keep in mind that the manufacturers data is typically
for pure chemicals, not mixtures. When you mix

chemicals, their properties can change. As a rule of
thumb, base your glove selection on the component in
the mixture with the shortest breakthrough time.
However, the only way to be absolutely sure that a
glove performs well against the mixture is to have it
Some people develop an allergy to gloves made of
natural rubber latex. Choose non-latex gloves unless
there are no alternatives that give the protection
needed. If you must use latex, choose low-protein,
powder-free gloves.

Identify all other hazards for hands

Identify any other hazards present. For example, is
there a risk of, abrasion, cuts, puncture or high
temperature? There are chemical protective gloves that
also give protection against mechanical hazards (those
marked EN388) and thermal hazards (those marked

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Consider the type and duration of contact

Grip requirements (dry, wet, oily).

Will gloves be worn for a short time intermittently or

for long periods? Comfort is more important for
longer wear. Generally, thicker, robust gloves offer
greater protection than thinner gloves but thinner
gloves offer better dexterity.

Thermal protection.
Size and comfort.
Abrasion/resistance requirements.
Gloves made from a wide variety of materials are
designed for many types of workplace hazards. In general,
gloves fall into four groups:

Will contact be from occasional splashes or by total

immersion? Short gloves are fine to protect against
splashes. If hands are immersed (and you can justify
that this is unavoidable), choose a length greater than
the depth of immersion.

Gloves made of leather, canvas or metal mesh;

Fabric and coated fabric gloves;
Chemical, liquid and particle resistant gloves;

Consider the user - size and comfort

Insulating gloves.

Gloves should fit the wearer. Tight gloves can make

hands feel tired and lose their grip. Too large gloves
can create folds; these can impair work and be
uncomfortable. It can help to use sizing charts.

Leather, Canvas or Metal Mesh Gloves

Sturdy gloves made from metal mesh, leather or canvas
provide protection against cuts and burns. Leather or
canvas gloves also protect against sustained heat.

Comfortable gloves are more likely to be worn. Involve

employees in the selection process and give them a
reasonable choice to pick from. This can sometimes
promote buy-in to wearing them.

Leather gloves protect against sparks, moderate heat,

blows, chips and rough objects.
Aluminized gloves provide reflective and insulating
protection against heat and require an insert made of
synthetic materials to protect against heat and cold.

Hands can sweat inside gloves making them

uncomfortable to wear. Getting staff to take glove
breaks, removing gloves for a minute or so before
hands get too hot and sweaty, can help air the hands.
You could also consider supplying separate cotton
gloves to wear under protective gloves. These can
increase comfort by absorbing sweat. They can be
laundered and reused.

Aramid fibre gloves protect against heat and cold, are

cut and abrasive resistant and wear well.
Synthetic gloves of various materials offer protection
against heat and cold, are cut and abrasive resistant
and may withstand some diluted acids. These materials
do not stand up against alkalis and solvents.

Consider the task

Gloves should not hamper the task. If wet/oily objects
are handled, choose gloves with a roughened/textured
surface for good grip. Select gloves that balance
protection with dexterity. Ensure the gloves selected
meet any standards required for the task, eg sterile
gloves, food grade gloves. Consider whether colour is
important, eg to show up contamination.

Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves

Once you have selected your gloves tell your employees how to
use them properly to protect themselves. Tell them when they
should be replaced, and if they are reusable gloves ask them to
rinse them before removal (if practical) and tell them how they
should be stored. Review their use periodically and get employee
feedback, this can help check that the gloves are performing

Coated fabric gloves are normally made from cotton

flannel with napping on one side. By coating the
unnapped side with plastic, fabric gloves are
transformed into general-purpose hand protection
offering slip-resistant qualities. These gloves are used
for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire to
chemical laboratory containers. When selecting gloves
to protect against chemical exposure hazards, always
check with the manufacturer or review the
manufacturers product literature to determine the
gloves effectiveness against specific workplace
chemicals and conditions.

The following are examples of some factors that may

influence the selection of protective gloves for a
Type of chemicals handled.
Nature of contact (total immersion, splash, etc.).
Duration of contact.
Area requiring protection (hand only, forearm, arm).

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Fabric and coated fabric gloves are made of cotton or

other fabric to provide varying degrees of protection.
Fabric gloves protect against dirt, slivers, chafing and
abrasions. They do not provide sufficient protection for
use with rough, sharp or heavy materials. Adding a
plastic coating will strengthen some fabric gloves.

Chemical- and Liquid-Resistant Gloves

Chemical-resistant gloves are made with different kinds of
rubber: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon
(viton); or various kinds of plastic: polyvinyl chloride

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(PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene. These materials

can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a
general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the
chemical resistance but thick gloves may impair grip and
dexterity, having a negative impact on safety. Some
examples of chemical-resistant gloves include:

Butyl gloves are made of a synthetic rubber and

protect against a wide variety of chemicals, such as
peroxide, rocket fuels, highly corrosive acids (nitric
acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid and red-fuming
nitric acid), strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones,
esters and nitrocompounds. Butyl gloves also resist
oxidation, ozone corrosion and abrasion, and remain
flexible at low temperatures. Butyl rubber does not
perform well with aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons
and halogenated solvents.

Natural (latex) rubber gloves are comfortable to wear,

which makes them a popular general-purpose glove.
They feature outstanding tensile strength, elasticity
and temperature resistance. In addition to resisting
abrasions caused by grinding and polishing, these
gloves protect workers hands from 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. Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners and
powderless gloves are possible alternatives for workers
who are allergic to latex gloves.
Neoprene gloves are made of synthetic rubber and
offer good pliability, finger dexterity, high density and
tear resistance. They protect against hydraulic fluids,
gasoline, alcohols, organic acids and alkalis. They
generally have chemical and wear resistance properties
superior to those made of natural rubber.

Nitrile gloves are made of a copolymer and provide

protection from chlorinated solvents such as
trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. Although
intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity,
nitrile gloves stand up to heavy use even after
prolonged exposure to substances that cause other
gloves to deteriorate. They offer protection when
working with oils, greases, acids, caustics and alcohols
but are generally not recommended for use with
strong oxidizing agents, aromatic solvents, ketones
and acetates.

Choosing gloves that conform to EN Standards

Glove sizes in accordance with EN 420


It is very important that the correct glove size is provided and worn
and clear guidance is provided to ensure that sizing is right first
time. Two measurements are required to establish the correct size
- the hand diameter (A) and length (B = distance between wrist
and tip of middle finger).
Measurements are given in mm.



Glove length







Hand diameter (A)







Hand length (B)







Glove sizes in accordance with EN 420

Measurements in mm


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Complex protection - PPE for protection against lethal dangers or serious and irreversible injury, eg. protection against chemicals.
The European Directive 89/686/EEC specifies the fundamental requirements for PPE. Norms for safety gloves were devised for these
different requirements.

EN 407 - Heat and fire

0 to 4

0 to 5

0 to 4

0 to 4





0 to 4

0 to 4

Resistance Resistance
to small
to large
metal splash metal splash

Performance levels given in numbers:

the higher the number, the better the test results.

EN 388 - Mechanical risks

0 to 4

0 to 5

0 to 4

0 to 4





Performance levels given in numbers:

the higher the number, the better the test results.

EN 374 (1-3) - Chemical risks

Letter symbol



Test chemical
Carbon disulphide
Ethyl acetate
Sodium hydroxide 40%
Sulphuric acid 96%

the pictogram with

the beaker stands for
waterproof safety
gloves with low
protection against
chemical dangers.

A glove is considered to be resistant to chemicals if it attains a protection

index of at least Class 2 (i.e. > 30 min) with three test chemicals.

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Guide to glove standards

EN 1082-1:1996

EN 1082-3:2000

EN 511:2006

Protective clothing - Gloves and arm guards

protecting against cuts and stabs by hand
knives - Part 1: Chain mail gloves and arm

Protective clothing - Gloves and arm guards

protecting against cuts and stabs by hand
knives - Part 3: Impact cut test for fabric,
leather and other materials.

Protective gloves against cold.

EN 381-7:1999

EN 374-2:2003

Protective gloves against thermal risks (heat

and/or fire).

Protective clothing for users of hand-held

chainsaws - Part 7: Requirements for chainsaw
protective gloves

Protective gloves against chemicals and

micro-organisms - Part 2: Determination of
resistance to penetration.

EN 455-1:2000

EN 510:1993

EN 374-1:2003

Medical gloves for single use - Part 1:

Requirements and testing for freedom from

Specification for protective clothing for use

where there is a risk of entanglement with
moving parts.

Protective gloves against chemicals and

micro-organisms - Part 1: Terminology and
performance requirements.

EN 455-2:2009+A1:2011

EN 659:2003+A1:2008

EN 1082-2:2000

Medical gloves for single use - Part 2:

Requirements and testing for physical

Protective gloves for firefighters.

Protective clothing - Gloves and arm guards

protecting against cuts and stabs by hand
knives - Part 2: Gloves and arm guards made of
material other than chain mail.

EN 12477:2001/A1:2005
Protective gloves for welders.

EN 421:2010

EN 374-3:2003
Protective gloves against chemicals and
micro-organisms - Part 3: Determination of
resistance to permeation by chemicals.

Protective gloves against ionizing radiation and

radioactive contamination.

EN 1149-3:2004
EN 659:2003+A1:2008/

Protective clothing - Electrostatic properties Part 3: Test methods for measurement of

charge decay.

EN 13594:2002
Protective gloves against chemicals and
micro-organisms - Part 3: Determination of
resistance to permeation by chemicals.

Protective gloves for professional motorcycle

riders - Requirements and test methods.

EN 12477:2001
EN 420:2003+A1:2009
Protective gloves - General requirements and
test methods.

EN 388:2003
Protective gloves against mechanical risks.


EN 455-3:2006
Medical gloves for single use - Part 3:
Requirements and testing for biological

EN 455-4:2009
Medical gloves for single use - Part 4:
Requirements and testing for shelf life

EN ISO 21171:2006
Medical gloves - Determination of removable
surface powder (ISO 21171:2006).

Protective gloves for firefighters.

EN 374-3:2003/AC:2006

EN 407:2004

Protective gloves for welders.

EN 1149-2:1997
Protective clothing - Electrostatic properties Part 2: Test method for measurement of the
electrical resistance through a material (vertical

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