With so many disposable hand protection options available today, it's more important than ever to understand exactly what goes into a glove and what makes it the best choice for a particular job.
“Different glove materials hold up to specific chemicals differently. For example, nitrile holds up well to gasoline, diesel fuel and turpentine. On the other hand, latex holds up to acetone, ketones and thinners,” says Linda Kennedy, manager of logistics for Atlantic Safety Products.
Here is some basic information on what to look for when choosing hand protection.
Nitrile — Originally formulated as a replacement for natural rubber latex gloves due to latex allergy concerns, nitrile is a synthetic material made to mimic latex, but has no natural rubber latex in it. Nitrile gloves can be made thinner, providing better feel without giving up any protective properties. Nitrile gloves are generally stronger, more puncture resistant and more chemically resistant than their original latex counterparts.
Nitrile offers excellent protection against acids, bases, oils, gasoline, solvents, esters and grease. Nitrile gloves are more resistant to snags, punctures, abrasion and cuts than neoprene, latex or PVC gloves and are quickly becoming a staple in the industry.
Latex — This is the most universally recognized glove material. Latex gloves hold up to acetones, ketones and thinners. The main concern associated with these gloves is latex allergies, which can develop over a long period of exposure to the product. Reduced latex protein gloves were developed for this reason. These gloves have been additionally processed to reduce levels of natural rubber latex (NRL) proteins.
In addition to the glove's material makeup, there are other important considerations to keep in mind when selecting hand protection — such as powdered or powder-free gloves, glove thickness and the manufacturing process.
Here's a glove manufacturing secret: Most gloves are made with powder, even if they are powder-free out of the box. The powder helps release the gloves from the hand molds. Powder-free gloves have been rinsed and dried after coming off the molds to remove any extra powder residue.
Powdered gloves are less expensive to make than their powder-free versions because they are not washed and dried after manufacturing. They may contain higher levels of the manufacturing chemicals used to produce them, which is then released into the air through the powder in the glove. Powdered latex gloves are almost always not Reduced Latex Protein.
Be sure to also consider glove thickness when choosing hand protection. Disposable gloves, no matter what the material, come in various thicknesses to prevent glove degradation with certain chemicals. Latex gloves easily can be made thicker because the nature of natural rubber latex is that it can stretch easily.
Finally, consider the manufacturing process when choosing your disposable hand protection. Many times, the components of a disposable glove, especially the curing agents and accelerators used to harden the liquid glove materials onto the hand molds, can cause hand irritations.
Look for manufacturers that offer “clean” products — gloves that have been additionally washed to remove these irritants, like gloves with the Reduced Latex Protein claim. This also is important in choosing nitrile gloves. Since nitrile is a synthetic material, the more the gloves are washed after manufacturing, the cleaner and less irritating they will be.
Clean manufacturing not only will help protect you from harmful irritants, but it also can prevent excessive hand perspiration. The cleaner a glove is, the more comfortable it is, and as always, that counts for a lot.
Technology always is advancing, and glove technology is no different. Better technology spells safer, more comfortable gloves.
“Technology has advanced into such a direction that disposable hand protection has gone from something that could irritate your skin into products that can actually help and heal it,” explains Jay Wilson, dealer developer for Atlantic Safety Products.
Many features and additives are now available to glove manufacturers that weren't available even 2-3 years ago. The result? Hand protection products that are more comfortable than ever before. Here are just a couple of the newest and most innovative glove features available:
Aloe — Aloe is a natural moisturizer that hydrates and soothes skin. One of the newest manufacturing processes applies a thin layer of aloe vera gel to the inside surface of a glove, then dries it. When the user puts the glove on, the aloe is rehydrated, gradually bathing the hands in a natural moisturizer without any slick or sticky feeling.
5.5 pH Technology — Maintaining a healthy pH level is very important in healing irritated skin. When your skin pH is too high, it means your skin will be less able to fight off bacterial infections. When your skin pH is too low, your skin will appear dull, aged and un-elastic. Most gloves are manufactured with a pH level not equal to healthy skin. They tend to have higher pH levels.
Look for a glove that is designed to help maintain skin pH at 5.5. These gloves promote hand health and reduce contact irritation and bacteria growth by maintaining the skin's natural protective acid mantle. They also provide the user with a much more soothing glove to wear. Excess perspiration is controlled, and the gloves can be worn for long periods of time with greater comfort.
Thanks to technological advances like these, what once brought workers discomfort now can be a source of healing. Remember — choosing gloves that not only protect workers but also offer comfort and usability and will help keep everyone safe, productive and happy.
Pamela Dillon is the director of marketing at Atlantic Safety Products. She has written numerous articles and informational pieces on hand protection and glove safety. Her research includes glove material compatibility, how disposable hand protection affects the skin and new technological advances in hand protection.