Choosing The Right Hand Protection

The most effective and reliable way to prevent skin problems is to design and operate processes to avoid contact with harmful substances.

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:

  1. Identify the substances handled.
  2. Identify all other hazards.
  3. Consider the type and duration of contact.
  4. Consider the user - size and comfort.
  5. Consider the task.

Identify the substances handled

Alexandra offers a variety of gloves that differ in design, material and thickness. No glove material will protect against all substances nor will it protect against a specific substance forever.

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. Please refer to the European standards chart below for further information relating to certain types of protection.

  • 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 will tell you if this is applicable.
  • Substances created by work processes and ‘natural’ substances: Not all harmful substances come in labelled containers. Substances can be generated during work activities (e.g. wood dust from sanding or solder fumes). Remember that handling some ‘natural’ substances like foods and flowers can cause skin problems too.

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.

European Standards

Developed to enable assessment of intermediate and complex gloves. All conform to EN420, other standards relate to certain types of hazards.

The 89/686 PPE Directive has been reviewed due to the insufficient level of security with all gloves. A new abrasion test and cut resistance test has now been introduced.

EN374 glove standard is split into 2 sub categories:

  • EN374-2: Determination of resistance to water penetration
  • EN374-3: Determination of resistance to permeation by chemicals

EN407: Protective gloves against thermal risks

EN420: General requirements for gloves

EN455: Medical gloves

EN511: Protective gloves against cold

EN1186: Food contact

Identify all other hazards for hands and consider the type and duration of contact

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 EN407).

If the gloves are being worn for a short time intermittently or for long periods, comfort is more important. Generally thicker and robust gloves offer greater protection than thinner gloves, however thinner gloves offer better dexterity.

Size and comfort:

Gloves should fit the wearer. Tight gloves can make hands feel tired and lose their grip. Gloves that are too large can create folds; impair work and be uncomfortable. Involve employees in the selection process and give them a reasonable choice to pick from. Hands can also 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.

The task at hand:

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, e.g. sterile gloves or food trade gloves. Also consider whether colour is important, such as to show up any contamination.

Providing the correct protection:

Once you have selected your gloves tell your employees how to use them properly to make sure they are protecting themselves. Advise when they should be replaced, and if they are a reusable glove, ask them to rinse if practical, before removal. Review their use periodically and get employee feedback, this can help check that the gloves are performing properly.

If you are unsure if a substance produced by a work process or a natural substance you are handling is harmful, you can find more information by visiting www.hse.gov.uk

Disposable gloves guide

We stock a wide range of disposable gloves in a variety of materials and sizes.

The right type of material will be determined by the task you need to perform. For example, latex gloves are not a good option when working with oil-based or chemical substances.

Users who suffer from allergies to natural rubber proteins should also avoid latex gloves and find a more suitable alternative among vinyl, nitrile or vitrile gloves.

Choosing a glove that fits properly is also important: gloves that are too large can compromise safety and reduce productivity, but if they are too small you could experience hand fatigue and reduced dexterity. Check our glove sizing guide to help you choose the fit that is right for you.

All our gloves conform to the relevant European standards and are powder free.

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.

Please note: Size information on this page should be used as a guide only. Some product sizes may vary.

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