Better Grip Means Better Hand Protection

July 1, 2009
Avoid the disasters that can occur whenever slippery or oily parts slide out of a worker's grasp, or when hands slip out of control from a slippery surface into harm's way.

When hands or parts are slippery, workers can be seriously injured. At the same time, equipment and goods can be damaged, time can be lost and orders can be delayed. It's a chain of events that can and should be prevented at all cost.

Task-specific work gloves are the first step in prevention of hand injuries and product damage. For the past few years, glove research and development has been focused on creating gloves that ensure superior grip in slippery situations. Now there are options available that provide hand protection and grip in environments ranging from automotive manufacturing to the floors of sheet metal fabricators.

These newer, more form-fitting gloves are easier to manipulate than older technology product like cotton and leather. This reduces hand fatigue — an important factor with a changing and aging workforce. In addition, in tests, these new technology gloves outwear cotton and leather gloves anywhere from 3-to-1 up to 10-to-1.


These new glove types feature specialized coatings — coatings that absorb oil to ensure grip. Sponge nitrile is one of the most exciting of these new coatings. Glove liners of all types — from nylon liners to those woven of DuPont Kevlar — are dipped in this new coating for a glove that changes the rules of what a nitrile glove can be. Sponge nitrile produces a maximum oil absorbency (MXOA) nitrile dip that conforms and adheres to the shell and stands up to repeated washings with no shrinkage and without delamination. Depending upon the application, gloves can be flat-dipped for palm grip, three-quarter dipped for additional protection or fully dipped in sponge nitrite for overall protection. In addition, sponge nitrile now is applied in varying thicknesses to provide choices in the degree of oil absorption for different applications.

The resulting gloves provide comfort and touch sensitivity. The nitrile coating offers limited protection against a wide range of chemical substances and physical hazards. The gloves' superior foam grip ensures excellent grip in oily applications. On many glove models, elastic knit wrists work to hold the glove firmly on the arm for enhanced fit.


Increased productivity plus decreased waste due to length of wear are chief benefits of the sponge nitrile technology. For the business owner, the time savings and productivity benefits of this new sponge nitrile glove technology are many:

  • By utilizing newer technology gloves that outwear older style products such as cotton and leather, businesses will reduce worker downtime as less time is spent changing gloves that wear out prematurely.
  • Newer glove designs that are ergonomically designed can help businesses increase productivity in assembly operations by as much as 5 percent to 10 percent. Many U.S.-based manufacturers offer on-site evaluations to help businesses achieve all these cost savings:
  • SKU reduction through consolidation of multiple products being used into fewer SKUs.
  • Increased productivity through utilization of gloves that need to be changed less often.
  • Decreased waste due to length of wear of newer, technologically superior products.
  • Significant cost savings through reduction of recordable and non-recordable injuries.


These new technology gloves are designed to be used time and time again. Laundering removes the oil that's been absorbed and restores the glove grip function. However, as with any reusable glove, following laundering guidelines helps extend the life of the gloves. In general, workers find clean gloves more comfortable to wear and are more likely to wear them.

Specifically, gloves coated with grip-enhancing sponge nitrile should never be dry cleaned or cleaned using a dry cleaning solvent. They should not be bleached. Instead, they should be washed for up to 15 minutes using a mild commercial laundry detergent or soap in water no more than 150 degrees F or 60 C. Following the washing, they should be rinsed in cold water. If gloves remain soiled, repeat the wash and rinse process. These gloves can be tumbled dry but should not be subjected to high-heat drying. The dryer temperature should not exceed 120 degrees F or 49 C.


No matter how great the glove is, it will do no good unless it is worn whenever grip is needed in oily conditions. The key for workers is to select the right glove for the job and the right glove for the person. This means not only finding the desired performance properties, but also determining the glove size that is right for the individual. To determine proper fit, measure the circumference of the hand around the palm or at the base of the metacarpals. The number of inches will help determine the correct size:

7.5 inches = Small

8 inches = Medium

9 inches = Large

10 inches = Extra Large

10.5 inches = Extra-Extra Large

U.S.-based manufacturers provide training on topics such as how to select the proper size glove, how to select the proper glove in a variety of chemicals/hazards and cost savings opportunities in hand protection.

Sponge nitrile has ushered in a new era in hand protection for workers who previously were at risk for serious injury from lost grip under oily conditions. Research and development is ongoing in this area with new hand protection models introduced continuously. The future likely will bring even more task-specific developments to this important personal protection equipment arena.

Dave Shutt coordinates Showa Best Glove's new product development in general purpose, disposable and chemical-resistant glove lines among research and development, field sales and marketing teams, as well as distributor and end-user customers. A 20-year veteran with industry players such as Reichhold, he most recently served as Best's central region manager. He holds a degree in business administration from Malone College and is a Carnegie Graduate. He currently resides in Coshocton, Ohio.

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