Safety Sunday: Real men do wear gloves

Growing up, one of my dad’s favorite sayings was that; “Real men don’t wear gloves.” Of course, when I went off logging with my grandpa, splitting wood, etc… the first thing he handed me were a pair of leather / cowhide gloves. Well as the saying goes – with age comes wisdom and yes folks, real men DO wear gloves. While there are numerous reasons to wear gloves, like:

  • Slip Resistance / Increase Grip
  • Protection from Heat & Cold
  • Protection from Cuts / Splinters
  • Protection from Chemicals, Glues, Electricity

I want to address one of the most overlooked items & that is cutting down on vibration. Some of the major issues that may affect you while working around the house are using a weed eater, push lawn mowers, chain saws, brush cutters, reciprocating saws, drills, and even using a hammer for extended periods of time. For those of us that own & ride motorcycles, mountain bikes, or in my case a racing bike, care must also be taken as the vibration from the road or trail can also cause issues. (As an FYI – below the Additional Websites & Information area – I am including the full section on gloves from OSHA from their PPE guide)

Just like hearing a little ringing in your ears, means you sustained some damage, feeling a numbing or tingling sense in your hands means that you have done some damage. In many cases, just a little bit serves as a nice little warning – ignoring that warning, can cost you dearly later on. While they have some nice little terms like Vibration-induced white finger (VWF) or Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), the actual results are not so nice (even the mild ones).

In order to help minimize these issues, one should wear gloves that help block vibrations when working with equipment that causes vibration.  In my case, I actually like wearing my cycling gloves or what others call weight lifting gloves. Another item to help control the vibrations is not to utilize a death grip on the item, just relax and let the tool do its job. Buy or rent tools equipped with vibration absorbers, controllers, or dampeners (generally, they will have a softer grip instead of just hard plastic). For all the cyclists out there (including the motorcycle crowd) they actually sell a dampener that fits inside the end of the handlebars & they do work. Last, but certainly not least is to keep your tool maintained and work secured.

Additional Info & Websites

Hand and Arm Protection (OSHA 3151)

If a workplace hazard assessment reveals that employees face potential injury to hands and arms that cannot be eliminated through engineering and work practice controls, employers must ensure that employees wear appropriate protection. Potential hazards include skin absorption of harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, electrical dangers, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures and amputations. Protective equipment includes gloves, finger guards and arm coverings or elbow-length gloves.

Employers should explore all possible engineering and work practice controls to eliminate hazards and use PPE to provide additional protection against hazards that cannot be completely eliminated through other means. For example, machine guards may eliminate a hazard. Installing a barrier to prevent workers from placing their hands at the point of contact between a table saw blade and the item being cut is another method.

Types of Protective Gloves

There are many types of gloves available today to protect against a wide variety of hazards. The nature of the hazard and the operation involved will affect the selection of gloves. The variety of potential occupational hand injuries makes selecting the right pair of gloves challenging. It is essential that employees use gloves specifically designed for the hazards and tasks found in their workplace because gloves designed for one function may not protect against a different function even though they may appear to be an appropriate protective device.

The following are examples of some factors that may influence the selection of protective gloves for a workplace.

  • Type of chemicals handled.
  • Nature of contact (total immersion, splash, etc.).
  • Duration of contact.
  • Area requiring protection (hand only, forearm, arm).
  • Grip requirements (dry, wet, oily).
  • 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:
  • Gloves made of leather, canvas or metal mesh;
  • Fabric and coated fabric gloves;
  • Chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves;
  • Insulating rubber gloves (See 29 CFR 1910.137 and the following section on electrical protective equipment for detailed requirements on the selection, use and care of insulating rubber gloves).

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

  • 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.
  • Aramid fiber 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.

Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves
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.
  • 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 manufacturer’s product literature to determine the gloves’ effectiveness against specific workplace chemicals and conditions.

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 (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.

The following table from the U.S. Department of Energy (Occupational Safety and Health Technical Reference Manual) rates various gloves as being protective against specific chemicals and will help you select the most appropriate gloves to protect your employees. The ratings are abbreviated as follows: VG: Very Good;

G: Good; F: Fair; P: Poor (not recommended). Chemicals marked with an asterisk (*) are for limited service.

Table 4
Chemical Resistance Selection Chart for Protective Gloves

Chemical Neoprene Latex/Rubber Butyl Nitrile
Acetaldehyde* VG G VG G
Acetic acid VG VG VG VG
Acetone* G VG VG P
Ammonium hydroxide VG VG VG VG
Amy acetate* F P F P
Aniline G F F P
Benzaldehyde* F F G G
Benzene* P P P F
Butyl acetate G F F P
Butyl alcohol VG VG VG VG
Carbon disulfide F F F F
Carbon tetrachloride* F P P G
Castor oil F P F VG
Chlorobenzene* F P F P
Chloroform* G P P F
Chloronaphthalene F P F F
Chromic acid (50%) F P F F
Citric acid (10%) VG VG VG VG
Cyclohexanol G F G VG
Dibutyl phthalate* G P G G
Diesel fuel G P P VG
Diisobutyl ketone P F G P
Dimethylformamide F F G G
Dioctyl phthalate G P F VG
Dioxane VG G G G
Epoxy resins, dry VG VG VG VG
Ethyl acetate* G F G F
Ethyl alcohol VG VG VG VG
Ethyl ether* VG G VG G
Ethylene dichloride* F P F P
Ethylene glycol VG VG VG VG
Formaldehyde VG VG VG VG
Formic acid VG VG VG VG
Freon 11 G P F G
Freon 12 G P F G
Freon 21 G P F G
Freon 22 G P F G
Furfural* G G G G
Gasoline, leaded G P F VG
Gasoline, unleaded G P F VG
Glycerin VG VG VG VG
Hexane F P P G
Hydrazine (65%) F G G G
Hydrochloric acid VG G G G
Hydrofluoric acid (48%) VG G G G
Hydrogen peroxide (30%) G G G G
Hydroquinone G G G F
Isooctane F P P VG
Kerosene VG F F VG
Ketones G VG VG P
Lacquer thinners G F F P
Lactic acid (85%) VG VG VG VG
Lauric acid (36%) VG F VG VG
Lineolic acid VG P F G
Linseed oil VG P F VG
Maleic acid VG VG VG VG
Methyl alcohol VG VG VG VG
Methylamine F F G G
Methyl bromide G F G F
Methyl chloride* P P P P
Methyl ethyl ketone* G G VG P
Methyl isobutyl ketone* F F VG P
Methyl metharcrylate G G VG F
Monoethanolamine VG G VG VG
Morpholine VG VG VG G
Naphthalene G F F G
Napthas, aliphatic VG F F VG
Napthas, aromatic G P P G
Nitric acid* G F F F
Nitric acid, red and white fuming P P P P
Nitromethane (95.5%)* F P F F
Nitropropane (95.5%) F P F F
Octyl alcohol VG VG VG VG
Oleic acid VG F G VG
Oxalic acid VG VG VG VG
Palmitic acid VG VG VG VG
Perchloric acid (60%) VG F G G
Perchloroethylene F P P G
Petroleum distillates (naphtha) G P P VG
Phenol VG F G F
Phosphoric acid VG G VG VG
Potassium hydroxide VG VG VG VG
Propyl acetate G F G F
Propyl alcohol VG VG VG VG
Propyl alcohol (iso) VG VG VG VG
Sodium hydroxide VG VG VG VG
Styrene P P P F
Styrene (100%) P P P F
Sulfuric acid G G G G
Tannic acid (65) VG VG VG VG
Tetrahydrofuran P F F F
Toluene* F P P F
Toluene diisocyanate (TDI) F G G F
Trichloroethylene* F F P G
Triethanolamine (85%) VG G G VG
Tung oil VG P F VG
Turpentine G F F VG
Xylene* P P P F

Note: When selecting chemical-resistant gloves be sure to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations, especially if the gloved hand(s) will be immersed in the chemical.

Care of Protective Gloves

Protective gloves should be inspected before each use to ensure that they are not torn, punctured or made ineffective in any way. A visual inspection will help detect cuts or tears but a more thorough inspection by filling the gloves with water and tightly rolling the cuff towards the fingers will help reveal any pinhole leaks. Gloves that are discolored or stiff may also indicate deficiencies caused by excessive use or degradation from chemical exposure.

Any gloves with impaired protective ability should be discarded and replaced. Reuse of chemical-resistant gloves should be evaluated carefully, taking into consideration the absorptive qualities of the gloves. A decision to reuse chemically-exposed gloves should take into consideration the toxicity of the chemicals involved and factors such as duration of exposure, storage and temperature.

  • Mike Hines


    This is a very helpful reminder. Thanks!

    Your opening reminded me of a pretty scary event from my youth. My father and I were out re-stacking an old pile of cord wood to tidy it it up and keep it dry for the following heating season. Pretty light work for the afternoon, a job well done.

    Later that evening my dad complained of pain and swelling from one of his fingers. We kept an eye on it and witnessed the redness progress from his finger to his hand and then continue up his forearm after a number of hours. We both brushed it off as a spider bite. The next morning his entire finger was jet black and the swelling and redness had increased…to the emergency room we went. The medical staff were a bit perplexed but concluded that it was either a spider bite or a fairly rare case of anthrax infection resulting from a splinter. Apparently anthrax is naturally occurring and found in places like wood piles with decaying material…precisely where we were working…without hand protection. Real men. Who knew?

    The hospital stay extended and eventually the course of antibiotics began to win the battle…but not before the discussion about amputation from the wrist down. A very close call and one that we don’t wish to repeat.

    We both now wear work gloves for practically all work activities…never leave home without them.

    Thanks for the post!


    • SLS Construction

      Whew, I am glad everything turned out OK & I seriously doubt I would ever take them off after that except to go to bed.

      Thanks for all the great comments Mike, and here is to a safe week to all