When you’re working with various hazardous chemicals, you must wear the proper protection to prevent direct harm. These chemicals have varying degrees of dangerous levels that can quickly harm the skin, from gradual damage to burning it off completely. So, wearing the proper gloves matters when you’re working with dangerous liquids.
That’s where chemical-resistant gloves come in. What are chemical-resistant gloves, and how do they prevent bodily harm? Chemical-resistant gloves are tested and formulated in order to avoid direct contact with dangerous surfaces and agents. Their protection level depends on the materials being used and the manufacturing process in creating them. So, here’s a brief overview of chemical-resistant gloves and everything you need to know.
Since 1994, OSHA’s personal protective equipment (PPE) standards have cemented themselves in the general construction and labor industry. There are a few standards that are specifically addressed:
- Hand protection must be worn when hands are exposed to hazards such as severe cuts, lacerations, skin absorption of harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, and harmful temperature extremes.
- Employers must base the selection of appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of performance characteristics relative to tasks being performed, duration of use, conditions present, hazards, and potential hazards.
OSHA’s standards make proper glove selection mandatory with every application and task, including assessing the job for chemical exposures. From there, it’s essential to select appropriate, chemical-resistant gloves based on length, thickness, material, and other traits.
What Are Gloves Used For?
Chemical-resistant gloves protect the hands against various substances that vary in danger. Wearing chemical-resistant gloves help fend against cuts, burns, extreme heat, abrasions, chemicals, and other harmful substances.
However, chemical-resistant gloves aren’t formulated with a single purpose, as they incorporate multiple safety features. Understanding the differing levels of protection will help you find gloves that cater to your work.
What Are Chemical-Resistant Gloves Made Of?
When it comes to chemical-resistant gloves and everything you need to know, they are often made from synthetic materials to resist chemical interactions. When looking for chemical safety gloves, you’ll notice the synthetic materials are plastic and rubber. There are a couple of standard materials, including nitrile, latex, polyvinyl chloride, butyl, and neoprene.
Nitrile is among the most popular materials used for chemical protection. Nitrile gloves are formulated from copolymers, providing reliable protection against hazardous solvents and liquids. If you’re dealing with chemicals such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, nitrile gloves are best suited for the job. These chemicals are often found in lubricants, adhesives, water repellents, paint removers, cleaning products, sealants, and more.
Additionally, similarly to latex rubber gloves, nitrile gloves can shield the wearer against acids. Lastly, they help the wearer have an easier time while working with alcohols, greases, oils, and caustics. Nitrile gloves make a favorable choice due to their versatility and reliability.
Latex Rubber Gloves
Latex rubber gloves have been widely used gloves for a long time. Due to allergies, they slipped behind nitrile gloves in popularity. However, latex makes a reliable and versatile material that can protect the body against chemical and biological agents. Some of these chemicals and agents include:
- Sulfuric acid
- Nitric acid
- Hydrochloric acid
- Sodium hydroxide
- Potassium hydroxide
Latex offers a light and stretchable fit that can comfortably protect the wearer’s hand. Because of the gloves’ snug fit, users would power the inside of the glove to make it easier to slide off. While they offer flexibility and dexterity, many wearers are allergic to latex. Many jobs that require latex gloves include chemical plants, agriculture, food handling, and laboratories.
Developed as an alternative to rubber, neoprene has fantastic oil-resistant properties. These gloves are meant for handling and working with greases, oils, petroleum products, and gasoline. Neoprene can offer resistance against other hazardous chemicals, including:
- Organic acids
- Hydraulic fluids
- Aliphatic solvents
Neoprene also provides finger dexterity, good flexibility, tear resistance, and high density. While offering high-temperature and cold-environment protection, neoprene offers superior properties while protecting the wearer against chemicals.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC, is a common material often used in gloves for chemical resistance. Chemicals such as peroxides, fats, acids, bases, and amines don’t stand a chance against polyvinyl chloride. PVC also protects from other hazardous substances such as:
- Boric acid
- Sodium hypochlorite
- Ammonium hydroxide
- Diluted sulphuric acid
- Household detergents
While there are other chemicals that polyvinyl chloride can protect the wearer from, it doesn’t necessarily protect against every chemical in existence. It doesn’t offer protection against specific organic solvents while having poor heat resistance. PVC gloves are often used in commercial fishing, mechanic work, mining, fuel oil, construction, maintenance, and more.
Butyl is an elastic and supple synthetic material that provides excellent dexterity and flexibility. Butyl gloves offer protection against:
- Rocket fuels
- Strong bases
- Concentrated mineral acids
- Amine derivatives
Butyl gloves also provide good resistance against abrasion, ozone corrosion, and oxidation. Additionally, they provide high flexibility in low temperatures. However, a significant downside to butyl is the cost, as they are quite expensive. Because butyl is a special-purpose polymer, it’s reserved for very high chemical protection.
Using chemical-resistant performance work gloves comes with prior hazard assessments. Hazard assessments are completed by someone familiar with a task or job being performed. Knowing what chemicals or combinations of chemicals the job requires is the first step of the hazard assessment. As you review your Safety Data Sheet (SDS), determine the chemicals’ toxic properties.
Section 8 of your Safety Data sheet provides the type of PPE that is necessary to protect the user, and the recommendation can be vague and not brand-specific. As for section 11, it will provide toxicological information, including skin effects, resultant acute, and chronic effects. It’s essential to review the degree of dexterity, length of chemical exposure, temperature, chemical concentration, and glove characteristics.
Inspection and Care
Chemical-resistant gloves can break down over time after repeated chemical exposure, so inspecting and caring for your gloves is essential. Inspect your gloves for cracks, swelling, shrinking, and discoloration to detect physical damage due to chemical contact.
Because of constant chemical contact, your chemical-resistant gloves may no longer provide the chemical protection you need. Additionally, look out for holes or punctures in the material. If you notice any signs of aggressive wear or exposure, the gloves should become retired to prevent danger. Always check your glove manufacturer’s information for proper care and maintenance.
When you work with chemicals, you must protect yourself effectively. Not only should you have the protection necessary, but you should also be able to get the job done swiftly.